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Joe Flacco's Contract: Full Year-by-Year Breakdown

The NFL's highest-paid player, Joe Flacco.
The NFL's highest-paid player, Joe Flacco.
Harry How

It is official: Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco officially signed a six-year contract extension worth $120.6 million. Flacco held a press conference Monday to announce the signing, and Flacco was more than happy to toot his own horn. He has the right to -- not because he is worth the money that Baltimore is paying him, but because he cornered the Ravens into making him the highest-paid player in NFL history after one glorious postseason.

I saw a tweet earlier today from ESPN's stats and information account about Flacco's QBR rating for the 2012 season. Personally, I don't really care about ESPN's fancy new rating, but if all of the cynics want to complain so much about Brandon Weeden's rating, then Flacco's rating should be far and above the rest of the guys at the position, right?

Ah, I see. Well, I guess stats don't tell everything. Maybe his in-game heroics, like the gem you see below, is the reason why he deserves to be the league's highest-paid quarterback:

Situational football at its best, folks. At least he learned his lesson in the playoffs against Denver and took a chance to throw deep, only to have a once-in-a-lifetime connection to Jacoby Jones, thanks to baffling defensive play by the Broncos. Even if things hadn't gone the Ravens' way this season, Flacco still insists that he wouldn't have settled for anything less. "If we didn't win the Super Bowl this year, I still think I'm worth the same," said Flacco. "It may not be seen that way, but that's the bottom line."

You're right, Flacco. It doesn't seem that way. Flacco also addressed the fact that Baltimore should be able to keep some of their other players now. "Hopefully it works out very good for the organization and we can keep as many people as we need,'' said Flacco. Is that really the truth? With Flacco signing his contract today, Spotrac released a year-by-year breakdown of his contract, which I will now take an in-depth look at.

Here are some notes on the contract:

  • Flacco's signing bonus is worth $29 million, and his base salary for 2013 can be considered guaranteed as well. Flacco earns all of that money right away, but the Ravens, for cap purposes, get to spread it out over the first five years of the deal. Therefore, you can say that Flacco's deal includes $30 million (exhibit A) that is definitely guaranteed.
  • You should notice that Flacco has $22 million (exhibit B) in the "miscellaneous bonus" category. While that money is not 100% guaranteed, it is basically the same thing as being 100% guaranteed. In 2014, a $15 million option bonus kicks in for Flacco. In 2015, an additional $7 million option bonus kicks in for Flacco.

    Like his signing bonus, the Ravens spread the amounts over the final five years of the deal. That money is guaranteed for injury only. For example, if Flacco suffers an injury and the Ravens cut him, Flacco will make all $22 million right away. If they cut him next offseason and he is not injured, though, he would not get any of that $22 million. The odds of him being released are nil, though, which is why it is basically guaranteed.
  • The Associated Press stated that Flacco's deal includes $52 million guaranteed. When you take the totals from exhibit A ($30 million) and exhibit B ($22 million) above and sum them together, that is where you get that amount.
  • The Associated Press also stated that Flacco is set to pocket $51 million over the first two years of his deal. How did they reach that amount? In 2013, Flacco gets his $29 million signing bonus and his $1 million base salary, a total of $30 million. In 2014, Flacco gets his $15 million option bonus plus his $6 million base salary, a total of $21 million. Adding those together ($30 million + $21 million) makes $51 million. However, the amounts that count against the cap for Baltimore in both of those years is much smaller.
  • Flacco's low cap hit in 2013 means that the Ravens have some flexibility this year. His numbers against the cap escalate in the following two years at a shade over $14 million per year, but it's not a terribly crippling number. For that reason, the contract is structured in a way in which Flacco gets a nice payday, but Baltimore can retain at least some of their other key free agents over the next couple of years.
  • Starting in 2016, Flacco's cap hit shoots up to $28+ million, which will certainly hurt Baltimore's chances of signing future players in free agency, or re-signing other future free agents. The team can choose to re-structure Flacco when that time comes, but he will have all of the leverage. He can force Baltimore to extend his contract even further, shifting some of the money he was due to make in those future years, but it really only prolongs the inevitable. If the Ravens decide to cut Flacco in one of those later years, the cap number would still be relatively high in dead money, except in 2018.

Here is one final nugget: how are Baltimore fans going to react if when Flacco continues to deliver mediocre regular season performances through 2015, as their ability to add or retain other talent diminishes? At the very least, this will help set the groundwork for other teams in the AFC North, specifically the Browns and the Bengals, to contend over the next couple of years with more flexible cap space at their disposal.