Bill Barnwell from Grantland wrote up his annual All-Bad Contract Team for 2014, featuring quarterback Joe Flacco as his headline image and player. A frequent name brought up with contracts that weren't deserved, Flacco and his fans are used to this lack of understanding. Ahhh, another year and another article where Flacco is being defended for winning games.
Barnwell labeled Flacco's contract with his, "Ever fallen in love with a player you shouldn't have?" label. Looking at what that really means, Barnwell goes in to talk about how this is typical of teams that have fallen in love with talent they have groomed themselves and ultimately causes a team to pay a premium to keep them.
Perhaps the toughest contract to avoid. Teams too easily fall in love with the players they’ve nurtured and pay a premium to avoid having them leave town. You want to retain some of your talent, of course, but when the price tag doesn’t match the player’s talent level, you have to trust your ability to draft and develop a rookie to take his place. This is the mistake Jerry Jones loves to make.
Looking at Flacco's hold over the team during his contract negotiations, this is partly true. The Ravens wanted to retain Flacco because he was the best quarterback that the franchise has ever had and because HE JUST WON THEM A SUPER BOWL! Barnwell even talks about this in the first sentence of his assessment of Flacco.
I thought nothing would be able to top the Sam Bradford rookie contract as long as it stayed on St. Louis’s books, but the massive deal given to Flacco after his Super Bowl win narrowly takes the cake.
I know, I know... He doesn't throw for 5,700 yards a year and he doesn't flex his arm after a touchdown run. He doesn't marry supermodels and he isn't the face of a razor company. Then again, frequent trips to the postseason and frequent trips to the AFC Championship game to go along with one of the most prolific postseason performances in the history of the NFL apparently doesn't mean as much as Matt Ryan's startling lack of wins in the postseason and his Gillette commercials.
If you look at Flacco's contract solely as him and the team gambling on what he would do his final year and it biting the Ravens, you have a major idea of why Flacco got the biggest contract at the time. Let's look at the biggest reason that doesn't matter though.
Guaranteed money is what really matters with contracts because it is the only sure thing to happen once you strip away ridiculous incentives and bonuses. Of all NFL players, Flacco ranks at a wonderful 18th in guaranteed money with wide receiver Mike Wallace. He's behind Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady, two quarterbacks that are much older and heading toward the downside of their physical careers. He's below Matthew Stafford, Phillip Rivers, Tony Romo and Sam Bradford; all quarterbacks that haven't sniffed a Super Bowl. He's below Colin Kaepernick, who ironically, he beat in his Super Bowl MVP win.
All the attention got paid at the $120 million contract number, when in reality, Flacco won't see anywhere close to those numbers, even if the Ravens never restructure his contract in three years. Another thing Barnwell doesn't account for is that this is just the business of football. Franchise quarterbacks get increasingly larger contracts because it is what you have to do as a team. Look at teams like the Falcons with Matt Ryan, or most recently, Colin Kaepernick with the 49ers for examples of a team having to give a guy a major contract when there is question whether they deserve the numbers you hear about.
Since I've mentioned Matt Ryan, let's take a look at Ryan's recent contract extension as well for comparison.
Five years, $103.75 million for an average salary of $20.75 million per year with $59 million guaranteed.
Ryan will forever be linked with Flacco since they were the top quarterbacks taken in the 2008 draft, even if they were taken at opposite sides of the first round. Flacco makes less per year than Ryan and his guaranteed money is half of what Ryan got even though Flacco's contract is for an additional year. Now keep in mind that both are in their sixth year, 29 years old and one of them only has a single postseason win while the other is a Super Bowl MVP. Also keep in mind that Flacco has yet to miss a game while Ryan has missed 2 games in his career and has been hurt a decent amount for the Falcons. Let's also note that Ryan has had Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White as his targets for his career while Flacco has thrown to a combination of practice squad scrubs, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Derrick Mason.
When you look at the deals made after Flacco's deal, the Ravens are getting their $120 million man for dirt cheap. They get a Super Bowl, they get multiple AFC Championship appearances and they get the winning face of their franchise instead of a walking billboard. I'm pretty sure the only thing the Ravens would change is giving Flacco the contract sooner.
Note: Apparently Bill Barnwell has a bit of a hard-on for the Ravens. You'll find that he has a major bias all while putting together a serious lack of research on who he writes about. Just look at his 2012 article about the "Myth of Joe Flacco". Also take a look at No. 1 on his trade value article.
Contracts matter. Joe Flacco is probably a better quarterback than Andy Dalton, but Flacco is in the middle of a franchise-killing, six-year, $120 million deal
Baldwell, I mean Badwell, I mean Barnwell, as a Boston native. Someone must still be grumpy about losing to the Ravens and Flacco in the AFCCG.