In the first string of transactions made prior to the start of free agency, the Baltimore Ravens decided to ink Joe Flacco to a three-year extension worth $44 million, making him the highest-paid quarterback in the league. The new deal lowers Flacco’s $28.55 million cap hit for next season and creates an additional $13 million in cap space for the Ravens over the next two years.
There were no rumblings that the team was discussing a new contract as he’s already signed through the 2018 season. He was only in the third season of the six-year, $120.6 million extension that he agreed to after the Ravens’ win in Super Bowl XLVI against the San Francisco 49ers. The decision to ink him to such a large deal at the time was expected, given that he had helped the organization win their second championship and was also in the last year of his contract.
He had an impressive performance in the playoffs that year, tying Joe Montana’s NFL record 11 touchdown passes, and the Super Bowl win only added icing on the cake for Flacco in his contract negotiations. However, this new extension was made solely based on the fact that the Ravens wanted to have security at arguably the most important position in the NFL for a few more seasons.
This only made it clearer for general manager Ozzie Newsome at the NFL Combine last week when he saw several other teams looking for their next franchise quarterback at this year’s draft class. “I just spent about five days with GMs [at the NFL combine] that are looking for a Joe Flacco,” Newsome said, according to ESPN.com. “They’re not sleeping at night. I can tell you that. Joe is our quarterback and I’m proud to say that.” Baltimore may have the relief that Flacco is under contract for next handful of seasons, but is he worth getting paid like the league’s best quarterback?
In many obvious ways, no. The 31-year-old has never been among the league leaders statistically, never throwing more than 27 touchdown passes or surpassed 4,000 passing yards in a single season. He also has a career 6.96 yards-per-pass attempt and hasn’t been selected to the Pro Bowl through the first eight years of his career. From a statistical standpoint, Flacco by no means is performing like one of the league’s best and most productive quarterbacks. However, what he has done at an elite level is rack up wins.
Prior to last year, Flacco helped make the Ravens a constant in the playoffs, reaching postseason play in five out of the last six years and winning no fewer than eight games in a regular season since 2008. His 85 wins (including the playoffs) rank fourth among starting quarterbacks since he entered the NFL. He’s also the franchise’s all-time leading passer in yards (28,322), touchdown passes (162), completions (2,479), and attempts (4,070). This also includes winning the AFC North division title twice, making three AFC Championship Game appearances, and one Super Bowl win.
Yes, many will point to the fact that the Ravens had their fewest amount of wins last year since 2007, but it was quite a frustrating campaign with 14 out of their 16 games being decided by eight points or fewer. In fact, it could have been much worse record-wise as Baltimore got all five of their wins in these such contests.
Keep in mind that they were a competitive team throughout the season despite dealing with numerous injuries on both sides of the ball headlined by Flacco suffering a season-ending right ACL and MCL tear in the final minutes of their Week 11 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. They also lost several starters to injuries such as running back Justin Forsett, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., and tackle Eugene Monroe.
It’s quite a difficult task for many to wrap their heads around the fact that the Ravens made Flacco the highest paid quarterback in the league history when he’s isn’t considered to be inside the top at his position. The simple answer here is that he’s worth that type of money in the eyes of the organization. He has brought stability to the position over his first eight seasons in the league helping them become a staple in the playoffs, where he’s been one of the best quarterbacks in league history holding a 10-5 record with the most postseason road victories by a quarterback (seven).
Although he hasn’t carried the Ravens in the fashion that franchise quarterbacks typically do with their arm, he has perfectly fit the model that the organization needs. Flacco has shown that he can successfully lead an offense that is heavily reliant upon first establishing the running game, but he can also put together strong individual offensive performances from time to time when needed.
In short, he’s what exactly the Ravens need in order to be win games. They may have overpaid to keep their franchise quarterback under contract for three additional seasons, but at the same time they have locked up the one stabilizing force that many teams in the league are still searching for at this moment.