PHILADELPHIA -- Joe Flacco sees the numbers and knows that soon enough, he'll be next.
Cam Newton: five years, $103.8 million, $22.6 million average annual value (AAV) in the first three seasons of the contract.
Russell Wilson: four years, $87.6 million, $23.5 million AAV.
Philip Rivers: four years, $84 million, $22.4 million AAV.
"Everybody has signed for $21-plus," Flacco told me the other day after wrapping up the Baltimore Ravens' second joint practice with the Philadelphia Eagles. "Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers -- those guys are getting really what the number is. If you want a quarterback on your team who isn't a rookie, that's what you're going to end up paying him."
And the number keeps going up.
This is significant for the 30-year-old Flacco because, after this season, he will again become one of the most expensive players in the NFL. The Ravens will have little choice but to extend his contract. It would be economically unfeasible not to do so, just as it was only a few short years ago.
Back in 2012, Flacco left a contract extension on the table before the season because he felt it did not adequately compensate him for his value to the Ravens. Flacco bet on himself, and then backed it up, leading Baltimore to a Super Bowl XLVII victory with a masterful four-game stretch in the playoffs during which he threw 11 touchdowns and wasn't picked off once.
After that 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in which he was named Super Bowl MVP, Flacco received a six-year extension worth $120.6 million, at the time the richest deal in league history. Because of the way the contract was structured, Flacco had manageable cap numbers in the first three years of the deal. But in 2016, he will count $28.55 million against the Ravens' cap, second only to the Miami Dolphins' Ndamukong Suh. In 2017, the number balloons to $31.15 million, and in 2018, the final year of the deal, it is $24.75 million. Bottom line: After this season, it'll again be time to chat.
Flacco said that he is committed to staying in Baltimore. He wants to retire a Raven, and coach John Harbaugh, whose tenure in Baltimore has paralleled Flacco's, said the franchise is committed to keeping its quarterback. Flacco has never missed a start in 112 regular-season games, is 10-5 in the playoffs and has won more games, including the playoffs, than any quarterback since 2008.
Although he has never thrown for 4,000 yards or 30 touchdowns, Flacco had his best year as a pro in 2014, throwing for 3,986 yards and 27 touchdowns.
"I'm glad we did [the last deal]," Harbaugh said. "What's the alternative? He earned it, right? He earned it. So we've got another one coming up for him pretty soon. Hopefully, he'll want to be a Raven for life."
Harbaugh said that, while the Baltimore brass has not discussed Flacco's contract situation, it would address it after this season.
"I think [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] might've said that," Harbaugh said. "We'll talk about it after the season. He counts $28 million against the cap next year."
So they'll have to talk about it.
Flacco's attitude about his contract is the same now as it was in 2012. He's not really worried about it. He's supremely confident in his ability. He thinks his play this season will dictate the Ravens' actions. And if history is a guide, he'll be healthy.
He has also matured. He's married, and he and his wife have three young children. Being a parent has changed his perspective.
"I think he's gotten to the point every year he continues to grow, seven years now, where he discerns between what really is important and what's really not important better than ever," Harbaugh said. "Some things he didn't think were important before he's learned that they really are, and some things he thought were [important] before he knows now are not. He takes that maturity.
"We had a couple practices early in camp where guys were kind of like, 'Eh, I can't believe this, I can't believe that.' And Joe's like, 'Hey man, it's training camp. It's supposed to be tough,' and that's the last thing we heard about it. He's a leader."
Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., in his second season in Baltimore, has seen something else from Flacco.
"He's hard on himself this year," Smith said. "It's like he's seeking perfection. It's kind of, he's not saying he's seeking perfection, but you see it. Any small throw that he feels like is off, he's on himself. He's saying, 'My bad.'"
That was the case during one practice against the Eagles. In an 11-on-11 drill against Philadelphia's first-team defense, Flacco had Smith open deep on the right sideline. After sailing the ball out of bounds, Flacco screamed an expletive, clapped his hands together and returned to the huddle. He threw a completion to Smith on the next play.
He was also unhappy with his performance in an exhibition game Saturday night against the Eagles, against whom he completed only three of seven passes and threw two interceptions in three series of work.
"I think the thing is I'm excited about some of the young talent we have, and because we have young guys, you have to be a little bit different," Flacco said. "We need to get these guys ready to play early on. We're going to have to rely on them, particularly the tight end position. Our main guy is a second-year guy, and then we have a couple of rookies, and then receiver, same thing. We have Steve, but then we have a bunch of guys who haven't played a ton and some rookies.
"So, because of that, I think you have to be a little bit different so you can get those guys confident, get them to work and get them ready to play and do the best you can to make sure they know what they're doing and that they're confident doing it."
As for that contract, Flacco acknowledged the Ravens are "going to have to do something" next year when his cap number "[is] astronomical."
But while he sees other quarterbacks signing lucrative deals, he's not fixated on his own.
"When you see guys signing new deals, it kind of brings up, 'Oh, another guy signing for a lot of money,'" Flacco said. "But I don't really think about it. I signed a new deal a couple years ago, and I feel good about it, and I know what kind of position we'll probably be in after this year in terms of cap room and all that stuff.
"At the end of the day, it's not up to me. In the future, we'll get together. I want to be in Baltimore forever. We have a great relationship. ... I don't think we're in any different position than anybody else, and I feel comfortable with that. I hope they do. I'm not really worried about it."
Contract numbers courtesy of ESPN's Roster Management System.