Archives for Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are Screwed

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The title is a slight exaggeration, of course, and probably inaccurate because Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta know what they’re doing when building a roster, but I’m still less than optimistic about the future of the Baltimore Ravens, especially now that it looks like they may end up losing Anquan Boldin.

Personnel isn’t my gig, and maybe I’m in the minority here, but I think Anquan Boldin is one of the most underrated players in the game. I believe I’ve seen (but can’t currently find a link to support so maybe my claim is unfounded) that at the time of his acquisition by Baltimore, he had the highest yards per pass attempt of any receiver in history. I never really understood why Arizona let him walk when they had both the cap space and a glaring need for receivers (as we have seen every year since Warner retired). But even if that statistic is wrong, all you have to do is watch the Ravens play to know that he is a very important piece of their offense. He’s not as versatile as Ray Rice, but he bails Flacco out more often than most realize. ┬áHe runs great routes, has great hands, and is as reliable as they come. Even with diminished foot speed, he’s a handful, and he’s open even when he’s covered because of his size and physicality. He’s a great safety net.

Basically, in my opinion he’s responsible for a lot of Flacco’s success, and consequently, also his giant contract.

And if the Ravens let him go instead of paying him a perfectly reasonable* salary, they could be looking at a seriously poor return on their quarterback investment. Especially in a few years when the cap hits start to get ridiculous (in 2016, his cap hit appears that it will be $29 million!). Because in those years, coincidentally, Ray Rice will probably start to slow down a bit too. And if those two things both happen, you’re going to end up looking at a very highly paid QB that has to do an awful lot more by himself than he has ever had to do. And in 2016, you may very well be looking at a cap hit that is crippling a team that suddenly doesn’t have anything even resembling an elite offense.

*- I understand the numbers from their point of view, and wholeheartedly agree that it’s always better to let someone go too early than too late, especially at that age. And every million counts. 6 isn’t a lot for a known quantity, though, even if it’s a slight inflation of his real value. They’re right to hope to lower the figure; but in my opinion paying him $6m is a better option than not having him at all.

I don’t like Flacco’s contract or think he’s worth it, but there wasn’t much of an alternative for the Ravens. In the end it’ll only be a few million dollars a year different, and they’re creative and smart enough to figure out ways to make that up elsewhere.

But Anquan Boldin shouldn’t be one of the guys they cast aside so save that cash. He’s more important than most people realize.

Mar 6, 2013

Joe Flacco is the NFL’s Highest Paid QB

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… for now, anyway.

PFT has the details. They nudged the AAV of the Drew Brees contract up just a touch, so now Flacco is being paid more handsomely than several QBs that are much better than he is.

The Ravens really didn’t have much of a choice, especially given that they didn’t want to have to apply a Franchise Tag, but one has to say Linta and Flacco are the big winners here. There aren’t any stats and there isn’t any game tape that tells you that Flacco is in the same tier of QB as guys like Rodgers, Brady, Manning, and Brees. None. And now, much like Eli Manning was when he signed his current deal, he is going to earn more money than all of those guys.

At least until Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, and Aaron Rodgers sign new deals.

As several smart people have noted, this will just keep pushing the salaries for premium QBs higher, which then squeezes guys at other positions. There’s a shrinking middle class in the NFL these days, and while this isn’t something that we can specifically blame on De Smith, the NFLPA, and the new CBA, this unintended effect of the natural workings of the market is probably going to wipe out whatever progress was made towards paying veterans that came with the new rookie wage scale.

Mar 3, 2013

How the Steelers can help Joe Flacco and hurt their Rivals

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One of the reasons I like Mike Florio is because he thinks of things that wouldn’t occur to most fans. Anyone can write a website full of links to other news, but he has a curious eye and a bit of a nerd streak like me when it comes to things like the CBA and the cap.

So it’s no surprise that he noticed an interesting link between the Ravens and the Steelers with regards to the upcoming Joe Flacco contract negotiations.

There’s nothing new or earth-shattering here, really, but it’s also not something most people would notice. Under the calculation of the salary paid under the Exclusive franchise tender, Flacco’s salary is affected by the cap number for rival QB Ben Roethlisberger, since his is one of the five highest for 2013. Big cap numbers are generally something that teams would like to negotiate downward, but the Steelers may have more to gain by putting the screws to the Ravens than they do by re-negotiating Ben’s contract. They’d surely love to explore ways to lighten that cap hit, but they can do that any time. Might as well hurt your arch rival’s leverage a little bit by waiting a while before calling Ryan Tollner.

Feb 15, 2013

Overpaying Flacco

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This is not a new discussion, but after winning the Super Bowl more people are talking about Joe Flacco and just how big a contract he’ll command from the Ravens this offseason.

I have been fascinated by Flacco ever since he was drafted out of Delaware. At the time, I disliked Matt Ryan (I no longer do) and loved the underdog element to the Flacco story, given his background of losing out to Tyler Palko and transferring to a school not known for football prowess. I thought Flacco was decent value at 18 for Ozzie Newsome and I thought that it was likely that he’d end up better than Ryan and at a much lower price.

Over several years of watching him, though, I found myself annoyed more often than impressed. He’s got perhaps the game’s biggest arms but habitually underthrows receivers. He often “succeeds” by having defenders flagged for cheap DPI when the receiver hits them while slowing down to wait for an underthrown ball. (This is a huge pet peeve of mine, largely because there simply isn’t a good solution for it, but you’re still rewarding incompetence.) Even two of his long touchdowns, including the tying score in Denver, were underthrown. And he cost his team four points in last season’s AFC title game when he hung a ball up for Torrey Smith that should have led to an uncontested touchdown in the first quarter but instead ended in a field goal from the one (another pet peeve, especially in that situation in a scoreless game against the Patriot offense). Throw in the games against tough defenses wherein he played at a level no better than Mark Sanchez – a painful 10-9 Ravens-Jets game from 2010 comes to mind and it’s not among his worst, stats-wise – and there have been plenty of games where he left me, as a fan, smacking my head.

I should point out that I’m a big fan of the type of offense that the Ravens run, with the emphasis on throwing deep, and from personal experience I know just how much harder it is to throw to the sideline than it looks, even on short tosses. I know that the offense isn’t going to lead to jaw-dropping efficiency sometimes, and I know that it’s tougher to be accurate on difficult throws. Still, I often found myself thinking “if only they were getting better QB play, they’d be a real force.”

Things are different now, though. Flacco, while still inconsistent in 2012, put together a truly dominant run of four playoff games capped by a title, and now his agent Joe Linta is claiming that Flacco should be the highest paid QB in the game.

That’s ridiculous, of course, but that’s Linta’s job. And given the nature of contracts and evolution of salaries, it’s not reasonable to suggest that Flacco’s new deal simply slot in at salaries slightly lower than better QBs that signed deals years ago. Given the nature of the market, though, it’s likely that he’s going to be overpaid. We’re now left to sit back and wait to learn by how much. The Ravens may elect to risk giving him the non-exclusive franchise tag, which pays him $14.6 million in 2013 if a deal isn’t reached, but with the sad state of quarterbacking in the lower third of the league, it’s entirely possible that someone might be willing to give up the two picks required to steal him away. As Mike Florio points out, that leaves the exclusive franchise tag, which sits currently at over $20 million. Linta seems to think he can extract that much PER YEAR over the life of a new contract, which makes the exclusive tag a bit more palatable, but the team has a bit of a cap crunch so it’d be nice to work out a deal that saves them some money to be used on guys like maybe Anquan Boldin, who I think is criminally underrated by most of the media and makes every QB he plays with look a lot better.

The reality of the situation now is that there are other teams out there willing to overpay Flacco, and while Newsome has shown himself to be able to make dispassionate decisions and go strictly by his rules and values (like during drafts), the Ravens will be a significantly weaker team if they play hardball and let Flacco walk. There just aren’t any passable replacements at that position this year (or any year, in ordinary circumstances). So they will have to overpay as well, and in doing so, they’ll weaken themselves in other areas. The question will be by how much.

Boy would I love to be a fly on the wall in a room with Pat Moriarty and Ozzie Newsome during their calls to Linta. The Raven front office is one of the best in the game, and the team reached the pinnacle this year largely by avoiding big mistakes with the cap. This year they may have no option but to make one. But if any team can limit the damage, it’s them. It promises to be interesting.

Feb 5, 2013