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Ravens 2013 free agents and Joe Flacco's contract loom after AFC Championship game

With potential salary cap issues, who do you pay this offseason? Joe Flacco is one of a number of key players the Ravens will need to re-sign.

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Joe Flacco is setting himself up to be a well-paid man. Flacco's contract has been a focal point of discussion for at least a year now, with the fifth-year quarterback trying to prove he's one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks. With just two playoff games under his belt this postseason, he might have already proven his case. In wins over the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos, Flacco has completed 52 percent of his passes for 613 yards and five touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception this postseason.

His agent said he's an "elite" quarterback, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun:

"I've been the one putting him on a pedestal saying, 'Joe's a top-five, elite quarterback, and he's proving it,' " agent Joe Linta said. "He's in the rarified air of having already won seven playoff games in his short career. He's really demonstrating that he's one of the top guys out there."

Flacco's rookie contract -- which was $29 million over five years -- is set to expire at the end of the postseason. If he wants a contract that's "elite" status, then he's due for a very nice pay raise.

New Orleans' Drew Brees is being paid $100 million over five years, which is the richest quarterback contract in the NFL on a per-year basis. Denver's Peyton Manning is just shy of that, checking in at $96 million over five years.

Here are some of the other price tags on quarterbacks throughout the league, according to Spotrac:

  • PHI Michael Vick -- 5 years/$80M ($16M per year)
  • NE Tom Brady -- 5 years/$78.5M ($15.7M per year)
  • NYG Eli Manning -- 7 years/$106.9M ($15.2M per year)
  • SD Philip Rivers -- 7 years/$98.25M ($14M per year)
  • HOU Matt Schaub -- 5 years/$66.15M ($13.2M per year)
  • STL Sam Bradford -- 6 years/$78M ($13M per year)

So where is Flacco going to fall? Well, that depends if he's coming back to Baltimore or if another team in need of a quarterback (Arizona? Kansas City? New York Jets?) gobbles him up, which is unlikely.

But here's the kicker: The Ravens have salary cap issues.

So where do you want your money spent?

Outside linebacker Paul Kruger, inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Cary Williams are all unrestricted free agents who have helped solidify this defense in the absence of players like Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. It would be hard to lose both Ellerbe and Kruger, considering Lewis will be playing his last game at some point over the next few weeks. But if Flacco is back on the roster for $13-$15M per season, signing both could be tight -- or impossible.

Oh, yeah. Who else is a free agent? A guy named Ed Reed. Another guy named Bryant McKinnie. And Dennis Pitta, too, just to throw that in there.

One bright spot is with Lewis retiring, that will free up approximately $5.4M in 2013, $5.8M in 2014 and $6.3M in 2015.

So, what do you do, Ravens fans? Re-sign Flacco and make some tough decisions on the defense, or do you even consider the possibility of Flacco walking? The latter is unlikely because the franchise tag is there if they need it.