During the Eli Manning negotiations last year, the Giants leaked to the media that Manning wants to be the highest paid player in football. The tactic worked; Eli didn’t push his leverage as aggressively as he could have, accepting a deal that didn’t make him the highest paid player.
The Ravens could have done the same thing this year regarding Joe Flacco, but they didn’t.
The end result? Flacco, even as he recovers from a torn ACL, is once again the highest paid player in football, under either of the metrics used to assess player contracts.
Currently, NFL contracts are assessed by one of two standards: (1) by looking at the value of the deal from the moment it is signed; or (2) by calculating the “new money” added when an existing contract is extended. (The latter formula is a bit misleading, because most extensions are actually new contracts, with a signing bonus earned upon execution and an adjustment to prior base salaries. Some agents embrace the notion that “new money” analysis is bogus; others defend it as an appropriate measure for assessing a deal, often because it makes the deal more valuable.)
Based on the reported value of Flacco’s new contract, he has the most valuable contract under either standard.
As of signing, the three-year extension has $66.4 million in new money. Coupled with the $58.6 million he was due to earn over the next three years, that’s a grand total of $125 million over six years, an average of $20.8 million — higher than Flacco’s prior high-water mark of $20.1 million.
And with $66.4 million in money he wasn’t due to earn, that’s an average of $22.13 million in new money, besting the $22 million in new money under the Aaron Rodgers extension in 2013.
The question now becomes whether Saints quarterback Drew Brees will top either average on a new contract aimed at cutting down his $30 million cap number for 2016. And then the question will become whether Andrew Luck will set the new record. And so on, until the top of the market begins to reflect the 25-plus-percent growth in the salary cap since Flacco and Rodgers signed their most recent deals.