NEW ORLEANS -- Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco didn't just win the Super Bowl Sunday night. He gained all of the leverage in the upcoming contract negotiations.
The Ravens don't have to sign Flacco to a new deal this year. But they need to do it. The Ravens can't reward the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player with the franchise tag this offseason. That's extremely bad form, especially in the eyes of fans.
The pressure is on owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome to do the right thing. Flacco was drafted in the first round in 2008 to lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl. He did that. Newsome said Flacco couldn't be considered elite until he won a Super Bowl. He did that, too. There are no more tests left for Flacco to pass.
It's time to give Flacco the $100 million deal. Some will argue whether he deserves it, but I believe he earned it. He put up Joe Montana-like numbers in the playoffs. He looked like Ben Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl by the way he shrugged off pass-rushers and extended plays. He even outplayed Tom Brady and Peyton Manning this postseason.
Flacco said Monday morning that he was "pretty optimistic" a deal will get done this year.
"But who knows?" he said. "There’s all kind of crazy things that can happen with these contracts that we’ve all seen before. This is a great organization. I love being here. Great city. So, I don’t really anticipate any problem."
There shouldn't be any problems. The Ravens mishandled their quarterback situation the last time they won the Super Bowl. Instead of keeping Trent Dilfer, Baltimore thought it upgraded by signing Elvis Grbac. The Ravens didn't repeat, and Grbac retired after one season with the team.
There's no chance that the Ravens are letting Flacco leave, but they could make the situation more complicated by putting the tag on him. Without a new deal, Flacco can sit out all of the offseason workouts. That's not really carrying over the momentum from the team's dramatic Super Bowl run.
Believe me, it's hard to consider the exclusive franchise tag a slap in the face when it's worth $20 million for one season. But there is something to be said about making that long-term commitment to Flacco. This is a team that went through 15 starting quarterbacks in the franchise's first 12 years of existence. There really shouldn't be a price tag for the Ravens when it comes to the long-term stability of that position.
The biggest knock on Flacco has been his inconsistency. But in these playoffs, there was no quarterback more consistent than Flacco. He threw an NFL record-tying 11 touchdowns this postseason. He didn't throw an interception in his last 195 passes this season.
Flacco has won over his teammates. "He is the best quarterback in football right now," running back Ray Rice said.
He has won over the league. "Joe Flacco played a tremendous postseason," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "He was unflappable and brought his team to a Super Bowl level."
And Flacco won when it came to the contract talks with the Ravens. He reportedly turned down $16 million a year from the Ravens before the season began. Flacco bet on himself that he would come up big this year, and now it's time for the Ravens to reward him.