A month ago, the Ravens seemed to be destined to use the franchise tag on quarterback Joe Flacco, even though his performance arguably didn’t merit a one-year deal worth $14.6 million. The alternative was to let him hit the open market.
Now, it’s a no-brainer that the Ravens will apply the franchise tag to Flacco, if the two sides can’t work out a long-term deal soon. But if the Ravens win the Super Bowl and if Flacco has a big game, the Ravens would be taking a huge risk by using the non-exclusive version of the tag, since a quarterback-needy and cap-rich team could be very tempted to give up two first-round picks for a crack at Flacco.
So the Ravens may have to use the exclusive version of the franchise tag, which would prevent him from talking to other teams and which would pay Flacco the average of the five highest quarterback cap numbers for the 2013 league year. The tentative numbers are, according to a source with access to the information, $21.55 million for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, $20.82 million for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, $20.35 million for Giants quarterback Eli Manning, $20 million for Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, and $19.6 million for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
That equates to an average of $20.464 million.But here’s the caveat. Restructurings aimed at reducing those cap numbers would drop the average, pulling Flacco’s exclusive franchise tender lower. Still, the final number will be significantly higher than $14.6 million, and the higher number will be the starting point for talks on a long-term deal.
Don’t feel sorry for the Ravens. They opted not to do a deal when doing so would have resulted in a much bigger bargain. If Baltimore wins on Sunday, the gamble Flacco was forced to make will result in a major payday, one way or the other.