After all, he is the highest-paid player in NFL history after signing a six-year, $120.6 million contract. He took up all of the Ravens' money and didn't leave enough for the rest of the team, right? Well, as wide receiver Torrey Smith explained, you couldn't be more wrong.
"All you see is that one person got paid, you don’t know how it works or how the money is spread out," Smith told the NFL Network on Monday. "All you know is that he has been paid so you just assume all these guys who have been let go is because of Joe, which is unfair to Joe. That is not the case at all. He has a very salary-cap friendly deal, at least for this year. So it was clearly a move by the guys on top. More than anything you have to trust in Ozzie.”
Flacco actually helped the Ravens by signing his (soon-to-be-broken) record deal. His salary-cap number in 2013 is $6.8 million ($1 million in base salary and $5.8 million pro-rated signing bonus). If the Ravens had to put the exclusive franchise tag on Flacco, they would have had to use an additional $12 million of cap space on the Super Bowl MVP this season. That likely would have meant no linebacker Elvis Dumervil ($2.5 million cap hit), wide receiver Jacoby Jones ($4.9 million), fullback Vonta Leach ($3 million), defensive lineman Chris Canty ($1.5 million) and defensive tackle Marcus Spears ($1.2 million) on this year's team.
If you're looking for someone to blame for the Ravens losing seven starters this offseason, there are four Ravens who have higher cap numbers this year than Flacco: linebacker Terrell Suggs ($13 million), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata ($11.5 million) and guard Marshal Yanda ($7.4 million). In fact, as of last week, Baltimore had allocated $7.4 million of cap space on quarterbacks this season. Only eight NFL teams had devoted less cap room to quarterbacks.
Flacco's cap number shouldn't be a problem next year, either. It jumps to $14.8 million in 2014, which is a relatively modest number for quarterbacks. The problem comes in 2016 when Flacco's cap number escalates to $28.55 million. That will force the Ravens to restructure Flacco's contract because they likely won't have the cap room to absorb that type of hit.
So, you can criticize the Ravens for giving Flacco too much money (and remember Tony Romo just landed more guaranteed money than him and Aaron Rodgers will likely surpass him, too). But you can't blame Flacco for taking up too much cap space. You'll have to wait four years to do that.