Much of the discussion around the pending contract renegotiations between quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens has focused on how a new deal would free up salary-cap space for the Ravens this offseason.
A new contract would certainly help in that regard, but it's not the only piece of the equation.
In talking with reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine, Head Coach John Harbaugh emphasized that extending Flacco would guarantee that the Ravens keep their franchise quarterback in Baltimore and also deepen the relationship between the team and the player.
"We want him to be our quarterback. And we want him to be here for the long-term," Harbaugh said. "Joe knows that. Joe wants to be a Raven. He wants to be here for the long-term.
"To me, this is one of those things where your quarterback becomes,after a while,your partner. He becomes part of the organization, part of us, part of who we are coaching-staff wise. It's just a really unique relationship in sports. To me, that's who Joe is for us."
Flacco is only heading into the fourth year of a six-year contract, but his salary cap number is set to jump to $28.55* *million this season after being relatively low the last three years. A potential scenario for the Ravens is to tack on three years to Flacco's deal and flatten the cap hit this season so the team has money to spend in free agency.
Doing that would put Flacco under contract until he's 37 years old.
"He knows that he's in it for the long haul, and he wants to put the best team he can on the field," Harbaugh said. "He also wants to earn what he's worth, and whatever he signs for he's going to want to prove that he's worth it too. That's just how Joe thinks."
Harbaugh also stressed that getting a new deal with Flacco doesn't mean the quarterback would take less money. Flacco is still going to be paid the going rate for the league's top quarterbacks, and that clearly carries a hefty price tag.
"I don't think Joe is talking about any major pay cuts that I'm aware of – that would be great if he would," Harbaugh said with a laugh.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome has said the Ravens could operate with Flacco playing under his current inflated cap number in 2016, and that they could free up money in other areas.
But that's not the ideal solution. The Ravens have eyes set on getting a new deal in place, and Harbaugh is optimistic that happens.
"I'm pretty fired up about it," Harbaugh said. "I'll be really surprised and disappointed if it doesn't get done. But then again, I'm not the one doing the deal so it's easy for me to say."