So why did March 4 become the real deadline for the Ravens to get a deal done with quarterback Joe Flacco?
Because the Ravens didn’t want to have to choose between the non-exclusive and exclusive level of the franchise tag.
The latter, in light of the recent restructurings by Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, would have put Flacco on track to make more than $74 million over three years, if Flacco opted to take it year to year under the franchise tag. (That’s more than $24 million per year.) The former would have opened the door for a front-loaded monster offer from another team that the Ravens couldn’t have matched without dumping plenty of players.
That was enough to persuade the Ravens to get it done before encountering a fork in the road with a pair of paths that led nowhere good.
Unless the Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan work out a new deal within the next 12 months, Atlanta G.M. Thomas Dimitroff will face a similar dilemma.
Per a source with knowledge of Ryan’s contract, his cap number in 2013, the final year of his rookie contract, will be $12 million. Which means that his non-exclusive tender would be no higher than the base quarterback amount for 2014, since a 20-percent raise over $12 million will be only $14.4 million.
The exclusive number will be several million higher, setting the stage for a much higher three-year haul under a formula that would give Ryan a 20-percent raise for the second year of the tag and a 44-percent raise in the third.
The difference in this case is that Ryan is represented by CAA, which handles an ever-growing stream of franchise and highly-paid quarterbacks (Eli and Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo, Sam Bradford, Philip Rivers, Robert Griffin III) and which consistently emerges from these talks with top-of-market deals, team cap situation be damned. Now that the contract CAA negotiated in 2012 for Drew Brees has been eclipsed by the non-CAA Flacco deal, the goal will be to get back on top.
It’ll likely happen with Ryan, whether now or later or on the brink of the franchise-tag dilemma. Or at some point after that.