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Joe Flacco’s massive contract doesn’t seem so crazy anymore

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After winning Super Bowl XLVII, being named Super Bowl MVP, and throwing 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions during the playoff run to get there, Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco was paid. Oh boy, was he paid.

At the time, it seemed to be the right thing to do. After leading the team to the playoffs every year of his career, eventually culminating in one of the best playoff performances by a QB of all time on the way to winning a Super Bowl, Joe Flacco deserved big bucks.

The Ravens were in a constant struggle to find a quarterback before drafting Flacco out of Delaware in 2008. In his first year, he led the team to the AFC Championship game, but fell just short to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens knew they couldn’t let Flacco leave Baltimore after his rookie contract expired following the Super Bowl win. This meant they would have to cough up some decent change, however, and they certainly did. What they offered Flacco would make him the highest paid player in the entire NFL at the time.

Since then, Joe Flacco and the Ravens have only made the playoffs once, in 2014, and have become quite an average team. Injuries have of course played a large role in the team’s disappointing seasons, but a lot of the blame can also be put on the lack of money to spend re-signing players and acquiring big name free agents.

Many homegrown players have left through free agency, such as Kelechi Osemele, Rick Wagner, Torrey Smith, and Kyle Juszczyk, because the Ravens simply could not meet their market values. Other players have either been released or traded to free up desperately needed cap space, such as Anquan Boldin, Bernard Pollard, and most recently, Timmy Jernigan.

This has led to a bevy of Ravens fans blaming the team’s lack of success on the massive contract of Joe Flacco. While it’s true that the Ravens have been hindered by Flacco’s contract, it is far from the only reason for the team’s decline.

Players like Ray Rice, Eugene Monroe, and Dennis Pitta all created dead money for Baltimore after they could no longer play but were still owed a decent amount. This, combined with Flacco’s contract, and the constant restructuring of contracts to free up immediate cap room leading to more money owed later on, has put the Ravens in their current cap situation. Lackluster drafts in recent years has played, possibly, the largest role in the team’s descent though. So this narrative that Flacco is the reason the Ravens have fallen from grace is ridiculous.

Flacco was the highest paid quarterback this time last year. Now, he is the seventh.

Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, Derek Carr, Drew Brees, Alex Smith, and, most recently, Jimmy Garoppolo are all paid more than Flacco. Garoppolo is now the highest paid player in the NFL:

To put this in context, while Garoppolo definitely looks like the real deal, and could very well be worth every penny of that contract down the stretch, the fact of the matter is that he was paid big after only winning five games with the 49ers, while Joe Flacco was paid after five straight seasons of making the playoffs and winning a Super Bowl.

The market value for franchise quarterbacks is growing larger and larger every year. Who will soon top Garoppolo? Kirk Cousins? Nick Foles? The truth is, it won’t take long for another quarterback to become the highest paid. So, maybe it’s time to stop complaining about Flacco’s contract and realize that you have to pay up for a franchise quarterback these days. Whether their play is worth it or not is a completely different discussion.