The Ravens eventually must decide whether to apply the non-exclusive franchise tag (at $14.6 million for 2013) or the exclusive franchise tag (at, under current calculations, more than $20 million for 2013) to quarterback Joe Flacco, unless the two sides can work out a new contract.
Under the former, another team could pilfer the Super Bowl MVP, giving the Ravens two first-round picks as compensation if Baltimore can’t or won’t match an offer sheet signed by Flacco. Under the latter, Flacco can’t talk to any other team.
As explained by Albert Breer of NFL Network, the rules give the Ravens a way to soften the cap blow from using the pricier level of the tag. If the Ravens opt to go “exclusive” with Flacco, the cap number will remain at $14.6 million through April 19. At that point, it will become the average of the five highest quarterback cap numbers for 2013.
Nearly two weeks ago, we listed the five highest 2013 quarterback cap numbers, currently: $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. Restructurings or extensions would cause some of those numbers to drop, thereby dropping the average below its current level of $20.464 million.
The ability to carry Flacco on the books at $14.6 million through April 19 makes it easier for the Ravens to use the exclusive level of the tag and still transact other business. Then, if they don’t have a long-term deal in place with Flacco by April 19, they’d need to be able to absorb the higher cap charge.