Need more proof that the Ravens would be foolish to expose quarterback Joe Flacco to limited free agency via the non-exclusive franchise tag?
Consider this: Some teams already were contemplating the possibility of making a run at Flacco in exchange for two first-round picks even before he put together a postseason that has put him at the pinnacle of his profession.
Great quarterbacks in their prime never become available in free agency. Even if getting the player requires giving up a pair of first-round picks, it’s a small price to pay for taking very good care of the most important position on the roster for years to come.
So with the Ravens in more than a bit of a cap mess and with teams like the Browns having more than $40 million in spending space for 2013, a decision to do anything other than apply the exclusive franchise tag means that a team like the Browns could fashion a front-loaded deal with, say, a $40 million 2013 roster bonus that the Ravens could never be able to match without cutting half the players under contract and signing no one in free agency.
And with the exclusive franchise tag requiring the Ravens to set aside more than $20 million in cap space as of March 12 (the number could go down before or after that date as other quarterbacks restructure their deals), the only good way out of this mess will be for the Ravens to sign Flacco to a contract that pays him what he wants under a structure that entails manageable cap numbers until the salary cap spikes in 2015.
The deadline for application of the franchise tag is March 4. Which is only 22 days away.