By helping themselves create space under the salary cap, the Patriots also helped one of their most bitter rivals. A little.
If the Ravens go exclusive with Flacco, his franchise tender will be determined by taking the average of the five highest 2013 quarterback cap numbers at the time the tag is used. Before Monday, the five were: $21.55 million for 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.
Brady has gone from No. 1 to off the list, which (as Albert Breer of NFL Network pointed out recently) nudges Saints quarterback Drew Brees from the on-deck circle with his cap number of $17.4 million.
Previously, the exclusive tag would have cost the Ravens $20.464 million under the cap for 2013. With Brady replaced by Brees, the number falls to $19.634. That’s a savings of more than $800,000.
Of course, it likely won’t matter, since the Ravens seem to be poised to apply the non-exclusive franchise tag and to hope Flacco will give them a chance to match any offers made before an offer sheet is signed. Still, if a few more of those big-ticket quarterback cap numbers fall from the top five, there’s a point at which the Ravens could opt for certainty — especially since Flacco’s cap number would remain the non-exclusive number of $14.6 million through April 19, giving them extra time to clear sufficient cap space.
So, basically, the Pats did the Ravens an $800,000 favor by not waiting a week to do the deal with Brady.