Could the Ravens Lose Joe Flacco?
Joe Flacco will be the Ravens quarterback for the long haul… right?
After all, Owner Steve Bisciotti said just two weeks ago that the Ravens have "our quarterback for the next 10 years and we're going to ride Joe."
At least that's the plan.
But Sports Illustrated's Peter King and ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio both laid out scenarios where the Ravens could conceivably lose the Super Bowl MVP in free agency this year.
"You'd be a fool to think it's not possible," King wrote. "Probable? No. But look at the tea leaves."
The potential to lose Flacco comes down to whether the Ravens are able to work out a long-term deal with him by the March 4 deadline. If they can't reach a new agreement, then the Ravens would have to franchise him, and the question would become whether they use the exclusive or non-exclusive tag.
Here is the difference between the two:
Exclusive Tag (Carries about $20 million cap hit):Flacco would be frozen to the Ravens and no other team would be able to sign him. This guarantees he's back in Baltimore.
Non-Exclusive Tag (Carries about $14.6 million cap hit):Another team would be able to sign Flacco if they give the Ravens two first-round picks, and then present an offer to Flacco that the Ravens can't match. Flacco would have a choice to sign with another team offering a bigger salary.
To keep Flacco in Baltimore, Florio says that the Ravens would have to use the exclusive tag, which the New Orleans Saints did last year with Drew Brees.
"Really, there's no way at this point that the Ravens can use the $14.6 million non-exclusive tag, because plenty of teams would gladly give two first-round picks for a reigning Super Bowl MVP who is still on the front end of his prime," Florio wrote.
The trouble with using the exclusive tag is that it carries such a large cap hit that the Ravens would likely have to cut ties with free agents Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and Ed Reed, and possibly release wide receiver Anquan Boldin, King said.
If the Ravens were to roll the dice and use the non-exclusive tag, then both King and Florio could see a team in need of a quarterback with money to spend – like Cleveland – making a run at Flacco.
"Cleveland was $48 million under the cap as of Friday. Signing Flacco would rob the Browns of the sixth overall pick in this year's draft, plus their first-rounder next year," King wrote.
"But think of the shot of adrenalin for the Browns, if they could rip away Flacco from a team they despise."
If a team like the Browns made a run at Flacco, the advantage they would have over the Ravens is the luxury of cap room. The Ravens are strapped for cash – King says they are actually $5 million over the salary cap right now – and they wouldn't be able to match a front-loaded contract that the Browns might offer.
"Say Cleveland makes the 2013 salary $35 million," King wrote. "That way it'd be almost impossible for Baltimore to match; if the Ravens balked at $20 million per, you think they'd accede to $35 million in Year 1?"
To avoid that possibility and still have money to spend, the key for the Ravens is to reach a long-term agreement with Flacco's agent Joe Linta by the March 4 deadline. Negotiations between the two sides are expected to heat up next week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
"They have to accept the fact that they'd be willing, under the worst-case scenario, to lose Flacco before tagging him with the lesser designation March 4," King wrote. "It's a big gamble. If you're a Ravens' fan, you have to hope it doesn't come to that -- and that Linta and [Ravens chief negotiator Pat] Moriarty can get a long-term deal in the next three weeks."
Terrell Suggs To Get Second Opinion
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs played the last half of the season with a torn biceps, and the Ravens are trying to determine whether he'll need surgery.
The Ravens are reportedly waiting on a second medical opinion before deciding if Suggs needs surgery, according to The Baltimore Sun.
If Suggs does get surgery, it will be the second straight offseason he's gone under the knife. Last year he had surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, and was still able to return to the field less than six months later.
"Both injuries left Suggs without the power and explosion that has made him one of the NFL's most feared pass rushers," wrote Jeff Zrebiec of The Sun. "Suggs finished the regular season with two sacks and 22 tackles in eight games. However, he was a difference maker in the playoffs with 21 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the Ravens' four victories."
Leach Hopes To Avoid Offseason Surgery
Another Raven who played through pain throughout the year was Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, who was hobbled by ankle and knee injuries.
Leach played through a sprained ankle for the second half of the season and then injured his medial collateral ligament (MCL) in the regular-season finale against the Bengals, according to CSNBaltimore.com.
"He's hoping his wounds can heal with rest and he can avoid off-season surgery," wrote J. Michael of CSN Baltimore.
Kiper Expects Ravens To Target Inside Linebacker
The Ravens have a big hole to fill in the middle off their defense with Ray Lewis riding off into the sunset.
That's why ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. expects the Ravens to go after an inside linebacker in this April's draft. Kiper's Mock Draft 2.0 has the Ravens taking LSU linebacker Kevin Minter with the 32nd overall pick.
"Word is the Ravens will be down an interior linebacker next season, and they should be thrilled if Minter is still around at this point," Kiper wrote.
Minter would be a good value player at the end of the first round, and Kiper could actually see him climbing up teams' boards* *as the draft nears.
"Minter is instinctive, shoots gaps, can play sideline to sideline and is particularly hard for blockers to line up," Kiper wrote. "He's a steady tackler, and a good quarterback for your defense. The Ravens need a new one, finally."
- @TwentyER [Ed Reed]: "Nothing like being back home, Super Bowl streets I'm riding on,Blessed! Take action towards your dream!" [Twitter]
- @OJBrigance: "'When 1 door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long @ the closed door, we do not see the one that has been opened.' HK" [Twitter]
- The NFL is reviewing the sneak-in incident at the Super Bowl where Savannah State students posted video of themselves sneaking into the Superdome during the Super Bowl. [ProFootballTalk.com]
- Could the Ravens become the new "America's Team?" [Russell Street Report]
- There could be an exchange of talent within the division, as the Steelers are reportedly worried that the Browns are going to nab speedy free agent receiver Mike Wallace. [NFL.com]
- Most memorable moments of the 2012-13 season. [The Baltimore Sun]
- Atlanta Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud discusses the difference between Flacco and his teammate Matt Ryan, who have often drawn comparisons to each other.