Joe Flacco got the best of Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game last month, but Brady exacted a tacit form of revenge Monday, however unintentionally, when he signed a contract extension with the New England Patriots for far less than star quarterbacks typically earn.
As you may have heard, Flacco is in the middle of negotiations for a new deal in the wake of his team's Super Bowl triumph, and reportedly is seeking top dollar, as much as $20 million a year. But Brady took less than half of that to give the Patriots more short-term room under the salary cap – reportedly $15 million over the next two seasons, which should enable them to retain several key players.
Some fans in Ravenstown have been calling for Flacco to do exactly the same, lower his sights so his new deal doesn't eat up so much of the team's precious salary cap space. I can already hear the radio talk shows buzzing with a new rallying cry in the wake of Brady's deal: "Why can't Joe do what Brady did??"
My response is that everyone should calm down, take a deep breath and acknowledge a couple of key things about this situation.
Number one, we don't know what's going on in the talks between the team and Flacco's agent, Joe Linta. We don't know what Flacco is asking for, what the team is offering, or whether they're eating pizza or takeout Chinese while they talk. There very well could be salary cap relief involved. My guess is a competitive guy like Flacco gets the big picture. Yet he also wants to get paid, understandably. That's why it's called a negotiation.
Anyway, they're working on it. But to characterize the talks in any way at this point is to jump to conclusions.
Furthermore, the Ravens have a long and excellent history of locking up their key cornerstone players with deals that satisfy both sides. They've done it for years with guys like Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Ray Rice, several of whom became the highest-paid players at their various positions when they signed.
The situation really is no different just because it's Flacco's turn at the top of the priority list now. Yes, the dollar figures are higher because he is a franchise quarterback. But the goal remains the same: Negotiate until you sign the player to a deal that both sides can take.
What happened between the Patriots and Brady has no bearing on those negotiations.
Flacco is a younger guy than Brady, just entering his prime earning years. Brady, 35, has already signed several huge contracts, including a $60 million deal in 2005 and a $72 million deal in 2010. Between that, his many endorsements and what his supermodel wife commands, he probably already has enough in the bank to match the gross national product of some countries.
He has earned it, but my point is he is far enough along that he can afford to juggle decimal points and push income down the line.
Granted, Flacco isn't hurting, either, having just played out the $30 million deal he signed as a rookie. But he's at the crucial point where Brady was in 2005 – the point where you cash in big for the first time.
I'm sure the Ravens would love for him to take half of what he is worth, but he is in a different place in his career, a different place on the earning continuum.
Every player is worth a certain amount on the market at certain times, depending on his age, talent, stats and numerous other variables, including timing. (Very nice in Flacco's case at this point.) Both sides have to deal with whatever that market bears. The Ravens' task is to lock up Flacco to a deal they can tolerate and then move on and figure out the rest of their roster, what they can afford. That's actually what they do every year, pay their big-money guys and go forward. It's basic, life-in-the-NFL business, and the Ravens are adept at it, as their repeated trips to the playoffs illustrate.
So give it time, in other words. This situation is in development.