As much as the media doesn't believe him, Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome continues to say that his team didn't have to reach a contract extension with quarterback Joe Flacco to remain competitive.
Newsome didn't explicitly sign Flacco to save money, he attests. In fact, he said it was Owner Steve Bisciotti and Flacco pushing for it.
Quite simply, the Ravens wanted Flacco and Flacco wanted the Ravens. The three-year extension keeps Flacco under contract through 2021.
"We did not do a deal to gain cap room," Newsome said. "We did a deal so Joe Flacco could be on this football team for the next six years."
Yes, Flacco's contract reportedly immediately saves $6 million of cap space, but the part about* *being in Baltimore for the next six years is really what had Newsome, Flacco and Head Coach John Harbaugh happiest as they spoke about the contract Wednesday.
"When it comes down to it in this league, it's all about winning football games," Flacco said. "I think this gives us the best chance to move forward over the next five, six years to go win another Super Bowl, another two or three. At the end of the day, that's our goal and I want to do it here."
Last time the Ravens and Flacco worked out a contract, he was coming off a Super Bowl MVP performance. This time, the Ravens didn't hesitate to heavily invest in Flacco despite coming off a torn ACL and MCL.
Flacco's three years since his last contract haven't been quite as sparkling as the years prior. The Ravens missed the playoffs in two of those three seasons. Flacco threw a career-high 22 interceptions in 2013 and tossed 14 touchdowns to 12 picks last season before being injured in Week 9.
But Flacco has a track record of success and there have been signs of growth even during some of the more recent difficult years. Flacco was on pace for franchise and personal highs in passing yards last season, and his completion percentage was at a career-high 63.4 percent.
"On his shoulders stands the success of this organization over the last eight years," Newsome said. "I think his best football is still ahead of him. We know that some of the better quarterbacks in the league played their best football when they got into their 30s. I'm looking forward to that."
That said, the cap savings is nice.
It gives the Ravens a better chance of retaining its own free agents (such as guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele) and being more aggressive on the open market.
It sets the Ravens up better for future years considering it's a "flatter" contract that doesn't spike midway through. Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, said he expects Flacco to play out all six years under the deal without renegotiating.
Flacco recognized that a team doesn't win with the quarterback hogging all the salary-cap space. He said he doesn't even view quarterback as the most important position on the team, pointing to the offensive and defensive lines and playmaking targets as other key ingredients.
"It's important to me because I want to win football games," Flacco said. "You don't do that by having a quarterback and a quarterback only."
Once the deal was offered to Flacco, he said he sat on it for two days. It came together very quickly considering meetings began at the NFL Scouting Combine, and Flacco wanted to appreciate the moment.
The contract reportedly gives him the highest annual salary ($21.1 million) of any NFL player, but Flacco said he wasn't concerned with again breaking records.
"There are so many things that are more important nowadays," Flacco said. "You want to win. Like you guys have been saying, you want to be a partner in the team. You want to feel like that. And I think you realize that that's the stuff that ends up being more important than anything."
Get a unique look at the Ravens franchise quarterback in behind-the-scene photos of his football career.