We’ve established over the last two weeks that the Ravens may have to use the exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Joe Flacco, and that to do so would require the Ravens to set aside, under current calculations, $20.464 million in cap space.
And while the Ravens will be required to shoulder only the non-exclusive number of $14.6 million (or thereabouts) through April 19 when the top five quarterback cap numbers for 2013 are officially determined, the numbers that apply as of April 19 become locked in the moment the Ravens use the tag.
Per a source with intimate knowledge of the rules that apply, the five highest 2013 cap numbers at the quarterback position become fixed, for Flacco’s purposes, as soon as the Ravens apply the franchise tag to Flacco. And so, if the Ravens do it on Monday, when the window for applying the tag opens, they’ll eventually be strapped with the full $20.464 million.
That’s why it makes sense for the Ravens to wait until the last possible day to apply the franchise tag, if they plan to use the exclusive version. This will ensure that any new quarterback contracts with lower cap numbers could drive the average down from $20.464 million.
And it also makes sense for one of quarterbacks with one of the five highest cap numbers in 2013 — Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — to wait until after the March 4 deadline for use of the tag to restructure or extend his contract in a way that drops his cap number below $19.6 million. By waiting, the Steelers and Roethlisberger will be sticking the Ravens with a higher cap number.
The other top-five cap numbers for 2013 are: $21.55 million for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, $20.82 million for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, $20.35 million for Giants quarterback Eli Manning, and $20 million for Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. None of those teams or players have any obvious incentive to help the Ravens out by doing a deal before March 4.
But here’s where it gets interesting. Three of the quarterbacks are represented by CAA, and CAA also represents Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin. So if Stafford or either of the Mannings will be doing a new deal anyway, doing it before March 4 could result in more cap space that could be used to keep Boldin, who has a base salary of $6 million for 2013.