Ravens Update

OWINGS MILLS -- Preliminary contract talks between the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco are expected to launch next week at the NFL scouting combine, according to his agent, Joe Linta.

"I would expect that [Ravens vice president of football administration] Pat Moriarty and I will get together for a few minutes at the combine to chat," Linta told the Times.

Determining Flacco's value in comparison to other NFL quarterbacks is the primary issue in what could become a complicated negotiation. Heading into the final year of his original rookie deal, Flacco, 27, is due a $6.76 million base salary after triggering a $5.4 million escalator clause through his performance in the first four years of the contract.

The average value per year and guaranteed money are the biggest components to figure out. "We'll see how it goes," Flacco said when the season ended. "If it goes, it goes. If it doesn't, it doesn't."

Unlike other quarterbacks, Flacco has yet to reach a Super Bowl or make the Pro Bowl. However, no quarterback in the history of the NFL has won as many games as Flacco's 44 victories in his first four years in the NFL. Recent quarterback deals, though, don't offer much of a blueprint for the Flacco talks. Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick received a seven-year, $62.1 million extension that included $24 million in guaranteed money last season.

That would likely be regarded as low for Flacco as well as Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb's six-year, $65 million deal that included only $12 million in guaranteed money. Those quarterback deals are dwarfed by the likes of San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers's seven-year, $98.3 million contract that included a $19.55 million signing bonus. And Super Bowl winning New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is playing under a $106.9 million package that includes $35 million in guaranteed money. Flacco's contract isn't expected to be nearly as expensive as those blockbuster deals, but will likely exceed Fitzpatrick and Kolb in terms of maximum value, guaranteed money and average per year.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has made it clear that the team is motivated to secure Flacco's services on a long-term basis.

"With Joe, we're just going to sit down and start grinding out a contract and terms," Bisciotti said. "I think he's going to be extremely successful, I think he's going to have rings. He's got 10 years of his prime to show it. I think that he will be rewarded for his personality in the long run, and I think our fans will, too. We're going to stay the course. We believe in him. We believe he is getting stronger mentally and smarter with the ball." Flacco has gone 44-20 during the regular season, also winning five more playoff games since being drafted in the first round out of Delaware. And he's the Ravens' all-time leading passer with 13,816 yards and 80 touchdowns for an 86.0 quarterback rating. He passed for 3,610 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season while working with several new receivers, including rookie Torrey Smith.

Flacco outplayed New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the AFC championship game, a 23-20 loss where he completed 22 of 36 passes 306 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 95.4 quarterback rating. His potential game-winning touchdown pass wasn't secured by wide receiver Lee Evans in the end zone as cornerback Sterling Moore snatched it away. "I've said it all along: I think I'm the quarterback that I am," Flacco said. "I think the first four years that I've played here we've gone to the playoffs every time and won a game. I think the last two years that I've played in the playoffs, I've played well in the playoffs.

"Like I said earlier, I think when you watch the film and you're a guy in this organization, I think that you can say, ‘Hey, he's played pretty damn good for us.' But like I said, you never know what's going to happen. So, we'll see." Flacco has been to two AFC championship games, losing both times. He has won five of nine career playoff games, though, five more than Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan was drafted 15 spots before Flacco four years ago and has put up good numbers, but hasn't been successful in the postseason.

"There's no doubt that Joe improved," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "The thing that I like about Joe, when you're in this business, you are judged on one thing: winning. Joe wins. If he continues to win, if one pass is caught, he'd be in a Super Bowl. And I think he's going to win Super Bowl, a lot of them. And I hope to be a part of them. He has improved. The thing that you cannot knock about Joe is that he's a winner." Against the Patriots, Flacco displayed sound command of the offense after a rough start.

"That's the Joe we know," center Matt Birk said. "I don't know why, but for some reason Joe gets beat up more than he should. We're not surprised We're proud of him. He's a hell of a quarterback, a hell of a leader. He'll be around for a long time. You guys can kick him around for 10 more years."

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