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Breaking Down Ravens’ Contracts

Now that the excitement and hype of the Super Bowl have died down and the reality of free agency has set in, a clear picture has emerged.

Joe Flacco did not deserve to be the highest paid quarterback in the NFL.

Ravens fans may disagree, and understandably so. He put up impressive numbers at time throughout the past four years with the team, including leading them to the playoffs in each of those years. In addition to this year’s record-setting playoff run to the Super Bowl, there is no doubt he deserved to get paid. But the perception of him was clouded when he was named MVP.

Flacco was inconsistent this year and has been in previous ones. Ask most analysts — and probably some players — and guaranteed most would say of all the QBs in the league, Flacco doesn’t break top 5 in crunch time choices. As much as Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff lost the Ravens a 2012 Super Bowl appearance, Flacco didn’t solely win them a 2013 one.

Perhaps “deserve” isn’t the right word to describe Flacco’s contract situation. He did deserve a large contract and to be recognized as a top player in the league. One hundred percent he made the right decision in betting on himself at the beginning of the season and holding out for the long-term deal, but the whole concept of being “The highest paid quarterback” in the NFL is farcical and unrealistic at best.

What does Flacco gain from being the highest paid in the league? Realistically, he will only hold this title for another 10 months until the next top 10 QB with an expiring contract forces their team’s hand. At some point, these contracts will be too much for teams to bear. Teams with little to no high-profile players might get their chance to shine when they are the only ones with pocketbooks big enough to weigh themselves down with top talent, but eventually they will tap out too.

All these inflated contracts do is drive up market costs and force teams — such as the Ravens this year — to not only take a huge risk with salary bonuses in order to secure enough cap space, but also make enough room in that space for other key playmakers.

Anquan Boldin, Dannell Ellerbe and Bernard Pollard were all huge assets to the Ravens, especially in their Super Bowl run. Boldin was only getting $6 million, and while he could have sacrificed for the betterment of the team as so many are wishing he had, his salary is already below fair market value for his position. If judgment is neutral, Flacco won the Super Bowl and, therefore, deserves to be the highest-paid quarterback; so why wouldn’t his top target for the night become the highest-paid wide receiver?

Because it’s illogical to use that as a measuring stick.

One of the reasons the Ravens even made the decision to cut Boldin was presumably to make enough cap room for Ellerbe, which didn’t pan out for them. After releasing another outstanding addition in leading tackler Pollard and factor in the retirements of Ray Lewis and Matt Birk, the Ravens have lost much of their power, talent and intimidating presence.

It’s the reality of managing a team that parity is forced to exist. The whole existence of the salary cap is to prevent one team from holding all the cards, or Daniel Snyder would spend his billions assembling everyone’s dream fantasy team. Some sacrifices have to be made, and teams hope they can make them as strategic as possible.

And it’s not all Flacco’s fault, but he certainly set a precedent from his teammates’ perspective that the Ravens will pay if they think a player deserves it. It’s not necessarily all about physical worth, but the perception of worth. It’s as much psychological for these guys as it is physical talent.

Ozzie Newsome has done more with less in the past, but he is definitely giving his fans a scare in the process and doesn’t appear to be doing his team any favors.

Free agency isn’t over and the draft hasn’t even begun. It’s too early to assess whether or not these moves will pan out and these key playmakers will be replaced by the necessitations to get it done. But perpetuating the notion that the Super Bowl-winning quarterback automatically deserves the most money in the league doesn’t help you get there. It not only makes it worse for your team, but for the league.

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