On Second Glance, Turns Out The New Joe Flacco Deal Isn’t as Horrendous as We All Thought

Did anybody else throw up in their mouth a little when the news broke late last week of Joe Flacco’s new six-year, $120 million deal to remain the streaky, slightly-above-average-in-the-long-run quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens? I mean, if Joe Flacco is worth $120 million, then Matt Ryan is worth $200 million and Aaron Rodgers is probably in the neighborhood of a billion. Of course, as we all know, there’s no real issue that arises for a team after they hideously overpay someone – other than the fact that it completely hamstrings their salary cap situation for the near-to-intermediate future and you’re forced to start department store cashiers in your secondary (if you’re the Patriots, anyway). If the quarterback you’re paying all that money to is actually worth it (let’s use Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as the exemplars here), then you’ll still win ten-to-thirteen games a season thanks to transcendent quarterback play before having all the other holes in your franchise exposed in the postseason.

But what if you’re handing Oprah sums of money to guys who AREN’T worth it? Eli Manning’s a good quarterback, but the Giants have only made the playoffs once in the four seasons since he signed his $100 million contract before the ’09 season (no, I don’t remember what they did in the playoffs the one time they made it). In slightly different situations, the Lions and Rams are still in salary restructuring hell thanks to the massive rookie contracts of Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford. Frankly, I was ready to write my post this morning as a devil’s advocate suggesting that the Ravens would have been better off letting Flacco walk and watching the Cardinals or whoever sign him to an obscene amount of money and just trying to find the next Flacco (i.e. an above-average and REASONABLY PRICED quarterback) through the draft. The Ravens obviously couldn’t actually do that – the backlash from Baltimore fans would near Johnny U. levels of incredulity – but on paper that would have been preferable to having ONE-SIXTH of your available cap space devoted to the 10th or 11th-best quarterback in the league.

And then Albert Breer got an actual looksy at the contract and discovered something interesting:

As Breer pointed out on Monday’s “NFL AM,” Flacco’s deal “in essence” is for three years. That’s because he’s due $29 million in the fourth year, which “will not be workable” unless the salary cap explodes once money from national television contracts kick in. Breer added that Flacco’s 2013 salary cap number is less than half of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady‘s. “He certainly did the Ravens a favor,” Breer said… Flacco’s salary-cap number in 2013 is $6.8 million. This is obviously a team-friendly figure that will give the Ravens much more flexibility this offseason than previously thought.

Hey! That’s looking pretty good and fairly reasonable! I knew Ozzie Newsome wasn’t a complete moron! Let’s look at some other particulars from the deal:

In 2013, Flacco will get a fully-guaranteed $29 million signing bonus and a $1 million base salary. In 2014, he’s due a $15 million option bonus (guaranteed for injury) and a $6 million base salary. In 2015, it’s a $7 million option bonus (guaranteed for injury) and a $4 million base salary. In 2016, he will earn an $18.2 million base salary. In 2017, the base salary increases to $20.6 million, and in 2018, it’s a $20 million base.

Translation: AIN’T NO WAY IN HELL THAT CONTRACT IS MAKING IT TO THAT FOURTH YEAR. According to Spotrac, Flacco’s salary cap hit will jump to $16.5 million in 2014, then back down to $14.5 million in 2015 before going crazy in 2016-18 ($28.7 million, $31.1 million, and $24.7 million in succession). So in other words, Joe WILL be overpaid in 2014 and 2015 but not horribly – his 2014 cap hit projects as only the eighth-largest among quarterbacks and his 2015 cap hit doesn’t even register among the top ten yet. And, frankly, there’s a decent shot he actually turns into a consistent top-ten quarterback by then (let’s not talk about top-five just yet).

So as long as the Ravens restructure this thing by 2016 (and they will), they’ll actually have re-signed Flacco at a very comfortable figure that allows them to make a pass at re-signing Ed Reed and/or Anquan Boldin if their heart so desires. And Flacco’s getting $52 million guaranteed out of the whole thing, which seems like a pretty fair trade-off for just having one of the ten best postseasons of all time. So…everybody wins? Crap, that’s not nearly as exciting as “FLACCO HOLDS RAVENS HOSTAGE AND FORCES THEM TO GIVE HIM A QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS AT GUNPOINT.” Then again, when has anything non-football-related ever been exciting with Joe Flacco?

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