I hate when teams overpay based off of a short period of uncharacteristically strong play. I always like to consider where a guy was a year ago when grading moves. Well with Joe Flacco, you don’t even have to consider where he was a year ago. All you have to do is consider where he was 4 games ago. Going into January, he might not have gotten 60 million total on a contract (somewhere around 4 years, 60 million would have been reasonable).
Now he gets 60 million guaranteed and becomes the highest paid quarterback in NFL history in terms of yearly salary, guaranteed money, and total value of contract. His 6 year, 120.6 million dollar deal surpasses Drew Brees’ 5 year, 100 million dollar deal from last off-season. As good as he was in the playoffs, he does not deserve to be the highest paid quarterback in the NFL and in that way, he is “overpaid.”
However, the Ravens didn’t have a choice, which is why this still gets a good grade. Yes, if you compare this contract to other contracts of top level quarterbacks, they overpaid, but if you compare it to what Flacco or any of those top level quarterbacks could have gotten on the open market, this is a good deal. You can’t grade a top level quarterback’s contract by comparing it to the contracts of his peers because they’re all underpaid too. They just never get the chance to hit the open market. If they did, they’d command a fortune.
For example, Peyton Manning was coming off of 4 neck surgeries last off-season and still got 19 million yearly from the Broncos and was offered 25 million by the Titans. While Flacco is not the top quarterback in the NFL, I’m sure there’s more than a handful of teams out there that wish they had the chance to make Joe Flacco the highest paid quarterback in NFL history. If more than a handful of teams would have been willing to pay it, a player is worth it. Period.
Finally, while Flacco’s post-season performance was uncharacteristic, it can be explained. It might be more than a fluke, but rather a sign of things to come. Flacco blossomed as soon as longtime offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired and replaced with Jim Caldwell. Cameron took a lot of criticism over the years for not using Ray Rice enough, but that wasn’t his biggest issue. They didn’t really run any more with Jim Caldwell than they did with Cameron and if anything, Caldwell gave Rice fewer touches because Bernard Pierce became more involved in the offense. The best thing Caldwell did was he opened the playbook up and let Flacco throw downfield more often.
Flacco might be the best deep ball thrower in the NFL and might have the strongest arm. This season, including playoffs, he completed 50 of 123 for 1622 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions on throws 20+ yards downfield, which is nuts. He’s never going to have elite accuracy, but he might be even more accurate 20 yards downfield than 10. He always looked like he was holding something back under Cameron and now that he’s gone, it’s no (huge) surprise Flacco played as well as he did in the post-season. He’ll probably never do what Aaron Rodgers did after winning his first Super Bowl, setting the NFL QB rating record and winning the MVP, but he can at least do what Eli Manning did after winning his first in 2008. He’s a top-7 quarterback, a franchise guy, and he’s worth this contract.