There is no debating that Joe Flacco recently concluded one of the greatest postseason runs in football history. Anytime you can legitimately be compared to Joe Montana something significant has been achieved. Since winning the Super Bowl discussion has focused on how much the Ravens will need to pay Flacco moving forward. However, there is another option.
Good franchises, just like any good business, try to get the most value possible out of all of their assets. Simply put, buy low, and sell high. Joe Flacco has been a slightly above average NFL quarterback during his five seasons in the league. His QB Rating was 22nd best in the league as a rookie, number 12 in the NFL this year, and he has averaged out to annually be about the 14th best starter in the league. There is no doubting his incredible run in this year's playoffs, and NFL record setting six playoff wins on the road. Exactly how much is that worth?
The Ravens must decide whether to use the exclusive-rights franchise tag on Flacco or the non-exclusive tag. If the two sides fail to reach agreement on a contract under the exclusive tag Flacco would earn $20.5 million next year. If Baltimore opts for the non-exclusive tag his salary would be $14.6 million. However, under the non-exclusive tag Flacco would be free to sign an offer sheet with another team. Baltimore could decide to match the other team's contract offer, or let Flacco walk and receive two first round draft picks as compensation. The picks would come from the team that signed Flacco with the first in this year’s draft.
Last year the Washington Redskins traded two future first round picks and swapped first round selections, moving from number six to number two, with the St. Louis Rams so that they could select Robert Griffin III. There is no RG3, or Andrew Luck in this year's draft. However, since the current CBA was signed in 2006 no team has let go of two first round picks to sign a restricted free agent. Is Joe Flacco worth two picks and $100 million?
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If the Ravens roll the dice and opt for the non-exclusive tag one of three things will occur. They will get Flacco at a relative bargain, or at least a semi-reasonable price, they will match another team's offer and have Flacco long term at an amount that they have deemed acceptable, or they will let an average regular season QB go, scoop up two good picks from a bad team, and enter the market for Michael Vick, Alex Smith, Matt Flynn, or draft a quarterback.
There is no doubt that Baltimore would not be as good without Flacco. However, paying a premium for a good but not great player at the height of his value is not good business. The only teams in the league that are QB hungry draft in the top 13. Would the Chiefs (number one pick), Jaguars (number two), Brown (number six), Cardinals (number seven), Bills (number eight), Jets (number nine), or Buccaneers (number 13) pick, plus that team's selection next year, all for the right not to overpay Joe Flacco be that bad a move?
At very least, the non-exclusive tag allows you the right to match an offer, and avoid paying more than a cap crippling $20 million in 2013. The Ravens have options.