|Baltimore regards Flacco as the future of the franchise, apparently. (Getty Images)|
When we ran down possible destinations for Peyton Manning in 2012, we left the Ravens off the list because they already have, in theory, a franchise quarterback in Joe Flacco. Many folks would disagree. But, apparently, not the Ravens.
According to Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network, the Ravens and Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, will sit down in Indianapolis at the 2012 NFL Combine to talk about getting Flacco a new, long-term contract.
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LaCanfora writes that the Ravens are "committed to keeping the 2008 first-round pick." There's no secret that Flacco wants to get paid: Flacco said during the regular season that he deserved a new contract with the Ravens based on his performance.
"It is what it is," Flacco said at the time. "It's either going to happen at some point or it's not. The bottom line is I'm not too worried about it either way. Do I feel like I deserve one? Yeah. Do I feel like I'm going to get one? Yeah. If I don't get one, is it going to be a huge deal? No, it is what it is. It's not really up to me. It's up to me to go out there and focus on my play each and every game and put our team in the best spot to win a football game."
This is a mantra Flacco's repeated for some time now; that the Ravens are finally willing to talk turkey means that either they were a) as impressed with Flacco's playoff performance as our own Clark Judge was; or b) they understand that the "known" of Flacco is better than the "unknown."
The unknown being, of course, whoever else might be out there in free agency or the draft after the 2012 season. (If they tried to franchise him after the coming season, there would be some evil laughter and giddy fu-manchu rubbing as Flacco sprinted to sign that guaranteed contract.)
Based on what John Harbaugh's said before, it sounds like their answer is (a).
"I've said it many times," Harbaugh said. "I think his best football is in front of him. He only gets better. He's our kind of guy. He's a tough guy. He's a competitive guy. He's a leader. And I just can't wait to see where this thing goes with him. We are proud to have him as our quarterback."
So the question then becomes: how much is Flacco worth? Kevin Kolb and Matt Cassel both got contracts that paid them more than $60 million, with $20 million and $28 million guaranteed, respectively. (Kolb signed a five-year extension, while Cassel signed a six-year deal.)
There's no way Baltimore can get away with paying Flacco less than those guys. He's 44-20 in his career, he's started every single game since his rookie season, he's got a completion percentage over 60, he's got 11 game-winning drives and an 80:46 touchdown record.
He's also won five playoff games in four years and was one Lee Evans drop (or one accurate deep ball to Torrey Smith, if you prefer) away from taking the Ravens to the Super Bowl last year. He outplayed Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game.
Kolb's never played more than nine games in a season (!), or thrown for more than 2,000 yards. Flacco's average season with Baltimore dwarfs Cassel's average season with New England and Kansas City.
So unless he's taking a serious hometown discount, Flacco's going to get north of $10 million a year and $30 million in guaranteed money. That's a lot of cheese. It's going to be extremely interesting to see how Cam Cameron and Jim Caldwell can help Flacco grow over the next few years.
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