What is Flacco Really Worth?
Amongst a 2013 NFL free agent quarterback class is one great name: Joe Flacco. After an outstanding post-season run while leading the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl victory, Flacco is in for a big payday as an unrestricted free agent. But now that he's answered his many critics, how much money does Flacco really deserve?
If you listen to the rhetoric in the media, Flacco's camp says he should be the highest paid player in the league. But do they really believe that? Plain and simple; it's just not going to happen. Flacco had a good regular season, but nothing outstanding statistically. He wasn't in the top 10 in passing yards or passing TD's. He wasn't top 10 in fantasy points, and even in my early 2013 fantasy football rankings, Flacco didn't even crack my top 10 fantasy QB's.
So what is fair value for Flacco?
If a long term deal can't be reached by Flacco and the Ravens by the start of free agency March 12, then the franchise tag will almost certainly come into play. But which one?
The exclusive rights franchise tag would guarantee Flacco a one year deal worth between $20-21 million. It would also bar him from negotiating with any other teams. It would also distress the Ravens salary cap wise as they are currently believed to be only about $15 million under the 2013 salary cap. But at least it would handcuff Flacco to the Ravens.
The non-exclusive rights franchise tag would "only" guarantee him a one year deal worth between $14-15 million. But it would also allow Flacco to negotiate with other teams. If he were to come to a contract agreement with another team, the Ravens then could either match it, or let him go for two 1st round draft picks. Given the state of QB needy teams, I would venture to guess that after a Super Bowl victory, there would be teams that wouldn't hesitate to pony up those draft picks.
These are the facts in the matter. But really, I'm interested in what is fair. I know it's a bizarre concept in the world of "get as much as you possibly can", but here's what I think is fair:
6 years, $105 million. That's an average of $17.5 million per season which puts him below most of the truly elite QB's in the game, and above the next group of near elite QB's. It's also about right in the middle between the two different franchise numbers.
With teams having the ability to be creative in how they structure the salaries thru the length of the contract and add signing bonuses, roster bonuses, etc, this type of deal seems to be "fair". It may even be above being fair for Flacco, who has yet to have to top 4,000 passing yards or 25 passing TD's in any of his 5 NFL seasons. And with creative structuring, it likely would turn out to be more realistically a 5 year deal worth between $75-80 million.
That sounds a lot more in line with realistic fair value. But you know these contracts usually are never this easy.