Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco is one win away from leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl title, but that isn't the only prize Flacco could land in the next few months. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent following this season and is reportedly seeking a contract worth $20 million per season.
For more on Joe Flacco and the Ravens, visit Baltimore Beatdown
If Flacco did receive a contract worth $20 million per season, it would tie him with New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees for the highest annual salary in NFL history. Brees signed a five-year $100 million contract prior to last season. It's not out of the realm of possibility that Flacco could even top Brees's contract and become the highest paid player in the league. ESPN NFL analyst John Clayton thinks that may be a possibility.
"Last season what I was hearing was he was asking for about $17 million," Clayton said, via Pro Football Talk. "But he was saying ‘okay fine, let me play this out.' Now he's in a position to make big money. And we'll see if he can get over Drew Brees's contract. I think he can."
When comparing Flacco's regular season performance to Brees, Peyton Manning and some of the other top quarterbacks, it seems hard to fathom how Flacco could potentially receive a contract in the same annual range. Flacco has a career passer rating of 86.3 and his 87.7 passer rating this season was 12th in the NFL, just 0.3 ahead of Andy Dalton. Brees and Manning are currently the two highest-paid quarterbacks in the league, and both have earned the contracts by producing at record-breaking levels.
So how could a guy who's never won an MVP, set a major passing record or even been selected to a Pro Bowl potentially become the highest-paid player in the league? As the late Al Davis used to say, "just win, baby."
Flacco is in his fifth season with the Ravens and Baltimore has made the playoffs all five seasons. He has never missed a start during his career, and has led Baltimore to a 54-26 record during the regular season. With Flacco, however, the regular season doesn't tell the whole story. While, he's been a good quarterback during the regular season, Flacco has been a great one in the postseason.
He has a career 8-4 record in the postseason, including an NFL-record six road victories. Only New England's Tom Brady has won more playoff games during the first five years of his career. It's not just Flacco relying on a stout defense to win either. In each of the last three seasons, Flacco has posted a passer rating of at least 90.0 in the playoffs. This postseason, he leads the NFL with a passer rating of 114.7.
In addition to his postseason success, Flacco also has leverage on his side. Not many teams reach the Super Bowl only to let one of their star players leave via free agency. Shaun Alexander used the same leverage in 2005 when he led the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl only to cash in with an eight-year $62 million contract after, the largest contract ever signed by a running back at the time.
If that wasn't enough leverage, there is also a lack of replacements that the Ravens could turn to. If Baltimore decides not to make Flacco one of the highest-paid players in the NFL, the team could be left fighting for scraps with quarterback-needy teams like the Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. San Francisco backup quarterback Alex Smith may be the top available quarterback this off-season.
Baltimore doesn't have an heir apparent waiting in the wings either. Tyrod Taylor is currently the Ravens' backup quarterback and the 23-year-old has attempted just 30 passes during his two-year career, all in mop up duty. If the Ravens are unable to reach a deal with Flacco by the start of free agency, they could always use the franchise tag on him. By doing so, the Ravens would tender Flacco an one-year contract worth $14.642 million.
Whether he tops Brees remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, Flacco will earn more than the $4.61 million he made this season.