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Late For Work 3/1: Schefter: Joe Flacco Will Be NFL's Highest-Paid Player

Posted Mar 1, 2013

C. Williams says he's not a priority, Ravens' bargains, Ayanbadejo says gay prospects should lie.


Schefter: Flacco Will Be NFL’s Highest-Paid Player

Sorry, but until Joe Flacco signs a deal all the talk will be about his contract.

With Monday’s 4 p.m. franchise tag deadline approaching, the Ravens and Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta, are still negotiating, reports The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson.

But ESPN’s Adam Schefter made one thing sound definite when talking on SportsCenter Thursday.

"If [the deal with the Ravens] does get done, it will make Joe Flacco the highest-paid player in NFL history," Schefter said.

There has been talk along those lines before, but nobody of Schefter’s stature has been so strong in stating it will happen.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees became the highest-paid player in league history seven months ago when he signed a five-year, $100 million contract. It included $60 million guaranteed in the first three years.

Schefter doesn't define exactly what would make Flacco the highest-paid player. Would it be the most money over the length of the contract? The highest average salary per year? The most guaranteed money?

Cary Williams Says He’s Not A Priority

There’s a line of Ravens free agents behind Flacco, and cornerback Cary Williams doesn’t feel he’s at the front.

Williams told Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times that the Ravens have made that clear to him.

“The team reached out to me and told me what the top priorities were, and those obviously were the quarterback position [Flacco] and the middle linebacker position [Dannell Ellerbe]. Everything outside of that would have to be a bonus I guess, so it is what it is,” Williams said.

“We have a lot of depth at corner and a lot of depth in the defensive backfield, so I just think I’m not necessarily a priority right now.

The Ravens have former first-round pick Jimmy Smith, who has yet to break into a full-time starting role. They also should get top cornerback Lardarius Webb back, and return Corey Graham, who excelled as a starter last season. Behind them is quality depth in Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson.

Williams, 28, turned down a contract offer from the Ravens last offseason and had a solid year in Baltimore that could earn him more money. He started all 16 games, made 75 tackles and four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.

“I know I’m worth more than what the deal was worth before,” said Williams, who reiterated that staying in Baltimore would be ideal.

“I’m not going to throw out a number and say what the range I’m looking for is, but I feel like a team, whoever that is, whether it’s the Baltimore Ravens, will pay me for what I’m worth. And I think that three-year, $15 million [offer] is something that I outplayed and that I’m worth more than that.”

Ravens’ Biggest 2012 Bargains

Pro Football Focus does some mighty interesting work. They concocted a performance value metric based on their grading from the 2012 season and the player’s salary cap hit last year.

Before getting into the rankings, I would like to mention that there are some important factors that aren’t accounted for, such as veteran leadership (Ray Lewis and Ed Reed), a player’s presence on the field changing opponents’ schemes (Terrell Suggs), or playing well at the right time (Bryant McKinnie). These intangibles have tremendous value, but are difficult to quantify when looking strictly at an individual’s performance.

With that being said, here are the Ravens’ most undervalued and overvalued players last year, according to PFF:

Undervalued

1.       OLB Paul Kruger: Cap Hit: $870k | Performance Based Value: $7.5m | Differential: $6.6m

“The contract year of Kruger saw him take his game to another level, consistently producing pressure, especially from the Ravens’ nickel packages. He finished 2012 with the highest Pass Rushing Productivity score of all 3-4 outside linebackers after registering 55 quarterback disruptions on 359 pass rushing snaps.”

2. RB Ray Rice: Cap: $5m | PBV: $9.1m | Differential: $4.1m
3. K Justin Tucker: Cap: $390k | PBV: $4m | Differential: $3.5m
4. TE Dennis Pitta: Cap: $675k | PBV: $4.1m | Differential: $3.4m
5. WR Torrey Smith: Cap: $770k | PBV: $4.2m | Differential: $3.4m

Overvalued

1.       OLB Terrell Suggs: Cap Hit: $11.5m | Performance Based Value: $925k | Differential: -$10.6m

“It was remarkable that Suggs was able to come back at all after a serious Achilles injury. That doesn’t, however, mean he represented good value for money. No, while Suggs deserves credit for clearly playing at less than 100 percent, he wasn’t worth the $11.5m cap hit he cost. Why? Well, he played only 413 snaps in the regular season and really struggled to generate any pass rush when he was on the field — just 16 quarterback disruptions on 223 pass rushes. We’d look for him to bounce back when healthy next year.”

2.       S Ed Reed: Cap: $10.4m | PBV: $2m | Differential: -$6.5m
3.       DT Haloti Ngata: Cap: $10.4m | PBV: $3.9m | Differential: -$6.5m
4.       ILB Ray Lewis: Cap: $6.9m | PBV: $925k | Differential: -$5.9m
5.       OT Bryant McKinnie: Cap: $3.2m | PBV: $925k | Differential: $-2.3m

While Reed and Ngata were mentioned as two of the most overvalued players, it’s worth noting that they also battled through injuries last season.

Ayanbadejo: Prospects Should Say They’re Straight

The NFL is investigating claims that teams asked draft prospects about their sexual orientation after Colorado tight end Nick Kasa told ESPN that he was asked whether he liked girls.

Now Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has some advice for prospects.

"Selfishly, I think players need to say that they're straight right now," Ayanbadejo said during an appearance on “The Ed Show" on MSNBC Wednesday. "You need to get drafted as high as you can get drafted, get the money while you can.

"The way things are going right now with the bigotry that still exists and discrimination that still exists within the locker room and sports arena in general, I think you need to say, 'Hey, I'm straight, I love women,' and keep things so-called normal. Maybe later, once you've established yourself and when we break down some of these walls in the NFL, players will be more comfortable to be who they are."

There has been no NFL player yet that has come out as gay, although NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal says “there are gay players in the NFL, of course.”

Ayanbadejo has been loudly championing gay rights this season. He took it to another level recently, collaborating with Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe to file an amicus brief in the Supreme Court that contends that California's Proposition 8, which says "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," is unconstitutional.

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