The Cleveland Browns could conceivably roll into Year One of the Joe Banner experiment with Brandon Weeden at the helm. They could bring in a cagey veteran to give Weeden a bit of a challenge for the starting spot. They could also try to acquire a questionable cast-aside starter in San Francisco’s Alex Smith. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, however, things the Browns could realistically go with door number four: Baltimore Ravens’ impending free agent, Joe Flacco.
Was it only me listening to Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti and trusted GM Ozzie Newsome the other day, thinking they’re going to throw the first big changeup into this offseason? Was it only me taking their words and reading resolve in them, and thinking it’s actually possible that Joe Flacco could be stolen by a quarterback-needy and starved-for-relevance team like Cleveland?
Listening to Bisciotti and Newsome, you’d be a fool to think it’s not possible. Probable? No. But look at the tea leaves [...]
Cleveland was $48 million under the cap as of Friday. Signing Flacco would rob the Browns of the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, plus their first-rounder next year. Because the Browns used their second-round pick on receiver Josh Gordon in the Supplemental Draft last year, they wouldn’t choose until 68th overall in April.
But think of the shot of adrenalin for the Browns, if they could rip away Flacco from a team they despise. What sweet irony for Cleveland, to steal the Super Bowl-winning quarterback from the team that stole their franchise. With new owner Jimmy Haslam and uber-aggressive president Joe Banner dying to make a splash to show their fans this won’t be the same old Browns, imagine Cleveland signing Flacco for five years and $110 million, making him the highest-paid player in history. And say Cleveland makes the 2013 salary $35 million. That way it’d be almost impossible for Baltimore to match; if the Ravens balked at $20 million per, you think they’d accede to $35 million in Year 1?
The salary numbers being used by King are the fuel for his speculation. If the Ravens were to lock Flacco up with the “exclusive rights” franchise tag, it would ensure that no team could swoop and in and pluck the Super Bowl MVP; the down side is that this would cost Baltimore $44 million over the next two years which represents a figure larger than the paychecks being earned by Drew Brees and Tom Brady. If the Ravens opted for the standard franchise tag, it would lower the financial burden, but “franchise” players can still talk to the other 31 NFL teams to work on a contract that would then compensate the tradee with multiple draft picks.
The Browns are owners of substantial salary cap flexibility while the Ravens, not inclduing Flacco’s impending deal, are already $5 million over the threshold.
[Related: Joe Banner and the assumed departure of Phil Dawson]