Joe Flacco was mocked throughout the football world last offseason for saying in a radio interview he believed he was the NFL's best quarterback.
Who is laughing now?
His agent, Joe Linta, has routinely been subjected to the same kind of derision for saying in essence that his client was a top quarterback who deserved a big payday.
Who is laughing now?
In these past weeks, when it was time for Linta and Flacco to negotiate a new contract with the Ravens, they had all the leverage. It's hard to remember a major NFL player ever having more leverage. Flacco was coming off an historic playoff run capped by a Super Bowl MVP performance. He delivered and delivered and delivered. You just can't situate yourself any better to talk contract.
That left the Ravens with a choice. They could either pay Flacco the going rate for top quarterbacks, which is a lot, or they could hardball him, not pay him, basically let him walk.
But that was really no choice at all.
This is a quarterback-driven league now. You're just not going to win unless you're set under center, superior under center. It's the first building block of winning, the cornerstone, and after years of searching for one, the Ravens finally have a quarterback who can carry them to the top, as opposed to being carried. It's a borderline priceless commodity in the NFL's currency, and the Ravens weren't about to let him go.
So that's that. Flacco is going to get paid. The Ravens and Linta are still finalizing a few details and decimal points, but ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that it's a six-year deal worth $120.6 million.
That's a lot of pennies, and Flacco is worth every one of them.
I'm sure there will be doubters who believe he is making too much, that a guy who has never been to the Pro Bowl shouldn't be the game's highest-paid signal caller. Fine. Whatever. Flacco certainly needs to be aware that signing a deal like this means he'll be subjected to even more intense scrutiny.
But those doubters also need to be aware that Flacco is getting paid because he just carried his team to a Super Bowl title, and that's a sounder rationale for paying a guy than counting up his Pro Bowl appearances or his regular season passing stats or any of those other metrics that other quarterbacks use to sign big deals.
Who won? That's the best metric.
Eli Manning is getting $106.7 million over seven years from the New York Giants, which didn't keep him from taking some heat for his less-than- stellar season in 2012, but he's won two Super Bowls, one more than his "better" brother, so in my view, he's worth every penny.
Flacco has repeatedly stepped up in the playoffs, and now he has accomplished the ultimate, what Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo and Matt Ryan all want to accomplish, and like Eli, he's going to be rewarded for it. It's fair. It's appropriate. It makes sense.
For both sides, it makes sense.
The Ravens are now set for the foreseeable future at the game's most important position. They aren't going to win every year, but having Flacco is going to give them a chance, no matter what happens elsewhere on their roster. He is just 28, with what should be years of good football ahead. That's crucial. Drew Brees was 33 when he signed his big deal with the Saints last summer. Brees is sensational, but if I'm looking at throwing around this kind of money for years, I'd rather be paying a younger guy.
Some of the details of Flacco's deal aren't out yet, but the Ravens wouldn't have done it unless it contains some salary cap relief for 2013, which should enable them to retain and/or pursue other key players. And Flacco will always have the option to renegotiate in future years to keep giving the team room, as other quarterbacks do.
The sky is not falling. The Ravens are going to lose some guys, but that happens every year. They should be able to keep a winning nucleus together, give themselves a chance … a chance they wouldn't necessarily have if they'd let their Super Bowl-winning quarterback walk.