Newsome 'optimistic' about Flacco deal

General manager Ozzie Newsome said Thursday that he's "optimistic" that the Ravens will get a long-term deal done with quarterback Joe Flacco.

That's never really been a doubt. The Ravens want Flacco, and Flacco wants to stay. The questions have always been: When will it happen and how many millions will it take? Newsome didn't provide answers for that.

It's in the Ravens' best interest to get it done before free agency begins. The Ravens could risk putting the nonexclusive franchise tag on Flacco, which would cost $14.6 million this year. If a team would sign Flacco to an offer sheet, the Ravens would have a chance to match it or receive two first-round picks as compensation. The alternative is the exclusive tag, which doesn't allow Flacco to talk to other teams. But the price to do that is a steep $20 million.

Either way, Flacco would take up a large chunk (at least 10 percent, to be exact) of the Ravens' salary cap if they used the tag. His salary-cap number could be half that if the Ravens can get a long-term deal done with him.

The reason that it's important to get a deal done with Flacco sooner or later is the cap room. I speculated before that the Ravens could put the tag on safety Ed Reed if they got a deal finished with Flacco. But Newsome indicated that no one other than Flacco would get the tag this year.

If the Ravens get a long-term contract done before free agency begins, they can use that space to re-sign free agents such as Reed, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and linebacker Paul Kruger. If a deal is done in July, the Ravens won't be able to sign their free agents much less other teams' free agents next month.

"We're looking to get a fair deal done with Joe," Newsome said. "If we're able to get a deal done, it will allow us to be able to participate more in the market if we so choose. But we understand what the priority is."

So, what's the number for "a fair deal"? The top four quarterback contracts in terms of annual value are: Drew Brees ($20 million per year), Peyton Manning ($19.2 million), Tom Brady ($18 million) and Michael Vick ($16.7 million). By all indications, it will take putting Flacco in the top three to get a deal done.