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Eisenberg: The Iron Myth That Refuses To Die

Posted May 28, 2013

It’s a myth because it false. It’s made of iron because it won’t go away.

While engineering a fairly major overhaul of their Super Bowl-winning roster, the Ravens have also witnessed the creation of what I call the Iron Myth.

It’s a myth because it isn’t true. But it’s made of iron because it is indestructible, simply refuses to go away.

You’ve heard the myth, no doubt. Maybe you even believe it. It goes something like this: The Ravens had to cut a bunch of players this offseason because they signed Joe Flacco to a $120.6 million contract. When their quarterback took so much, they had to get rid of Anquan Boldin and Bernard Pollard, couldn’t afford Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, etc.

I hear and see that reasoning all the time – on radio talk shows, on Internet boards, in casual conversations. It’s a fairly widely-held opinion. And I do see how one could arrive at such a conclusion. It’s seemingly logical that if you pay one guy a ton of money and there’s only so much to go around, obviously other have to go.

The only problem is IT ISN’T TRUE in this case.

Yes, Flacco did sign what was the largest contract in NFL history at the time (since surpassed by Aaron Rodgers), with a massive signing bonus, reportedly $29 million, and more than $50 million guaranteed.

But the first rule of NFL finances is there is no correlation between real dollars and salary cap dollars. Regardless of what a team pays a player in real money, there are all sorts of loopholes and clauses it can trigger to reduce its cap figure for that player in a given season. The Ravens exercised so many of them with Flacco that his cap figure for 2013 is just $6.8 million, actually lower than his cap figure for 2012.

His deal was extremely cap-friendly in the short term, giving the Ravens more flexibility, not less. In fact, that was part of their urgency to get the deal done, to give themselves room to maneuver during the roster-building season.

You may understand that and think it’s obvious, but believe me, it isn’t. No matter how many times you write or say it, the Iron Myth persists, with some fans continuing to insist their quarterback “hurt” the team with his “selfishness.”

For that reason and others, Flacco is going to be under intense scrutiny in 2013, with the public expecting him to produce as never before. There’s no avoiding it when you sign a big deal. The public waits to see if you’re worth the money, with some looking for any sign that you’re not.

Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta, didn’t ease his client’s burden last week when he told USA Today the Ravens were “dumb” for not signing the quarterback before the 2012 season, and that they cost themselves $35 million by walking away from the table at that point, and that he (Linta) has “no sympathy” for them.

It’s inflammatory stuff, but not being privy to both sides of the story or many of the basic facts regarding Flacco’s negotiations, I can’t offer a knowledgeable opinion on what Linta said. I do know his comments were far from tactful, as is usually the case when one gloats.

The reality is both sides took a risk when Flacco played out his original contract. It didn’t look so smart for Flacco when he was stumbling near the end of the regular season, but it worked out wonderfully for him in the end, so Linta had a ton of leverage. With their hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the Ravens didn’t mind.

But the Ravens’ story has gotten complicated since the Super Bowl, with plenty of names coming and going, and opinions flying hard and fast. Flacco, giant deal in hand, has been at the epicenter of it all.

Linta could have gone a long way toward dispelling the Iron Myth by telling USA Today that the deal was cap friendly in the short term, giving the Ravens the flexibility to sign guys like Elvis Dumervil. It’s a fact, and stating it could have provided clarity and helped ease the pressure on Flacco.

But Linta didn’t do his client that favor or any favors with his comments.

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