Going into the season, the Ravens and Joe Flacco were in the process of negotiating a new deal as his rookie contract was about to enter its final season. Flacco felt that he had played well enough to be paid as an elite quarterback, despite some divisive opinions about his true skill level. He had taken the Ravens to four straight appearances, winning games in each of those years and making two AFC Championships. Of course despite all of his wins, he was still missing that one key element that the elite quarterbacks such as the Mannings, Brady and Rodgers all have, a Super Bowl ring. Instead of accepting a deal below his perceived value in exchange for long team security, Flacco instead opted to gamble on having a career year in 2012 and maximizing his value when it mattered most.
Whether or not Flacco is an elite quarterback is a question that will probably not be settled over the course of this offseason but what we do know about him is that he played phenomenal, near perfect football this postseason on his way to a Super Bowl MVP award. He could not be in a better position as an upcoming free agent to get the money and the Ravens, despite their salary cap position, will need to pay him whatever he wants having brought the Lombardi trophy back to Baltimore. If elite quarterback money is what he wants, then he will get it from someone else if the Ravens can’t afford it. There are plenty of teams that need a quarterback and have plenty of cap space to fit a marquee signing under. Of course it is very unlikely that Flacco will be joining Trent Dilfer on the list of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks to not return to their team but it is impossible to rule out in this league.
Despite his fantastic finish to the season, it is not as simple as assuming Flacco will continue to play at this level for the remainder of his career. It is entirely possible his 2012 season could be attributed by the fact Flacco was in a contract year and trying to prove his worth and maximize his total value. So many times we have seen a player get their big contract and then their production rapidly declining. After just five years in the league, Flacco is entering his prime and is unlikely to experience a drop-off like Chris Johnson.
It was a game of chicken played with the Ravens front office and Flacco kept refusing the deals he was offered hoping that in his corner was the $20m contract that he felt he deserved if he held out long enough. A career year, some lucky breaks, a perfect playoff run and a Super Bowl MVP award means that everything is coming up Flacco and he now holds the maximum possible leverage over the Ravens front office for him to get his big money contract.