On March 4, one month and one day after the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII and quarterback Joe Flacco put forth an MVP performance in the biggest game of his life, the team rewarded the player with a six-year, $120.6 million contract that guaranteed him $52 million. The new contract ostensibly puts Flacco in Baltimore through the 2018 season, though a series of huge annual base salaries from 2016 through 2018 ($18 million/$20.6 million/$20 million) scream "restructure." It seemed that everything was good between team and player, but the recent public opinion given by Joe Linta, Flacco's agent, took some of the shine off the story.
Linta told USA Today's Jim Corbett that in the interest of avoiding a $1 million charge in the final year of a contract offered before the 2012 season started, the Ravens walked away from securing Flacco's services for less than they eventually did.
"I've never in my life seen a dumber move," Linta said. "I guess people can say, 'Well, Joe was dumb, too.' It could have been [dumb], God forbid, if he got hurt. But $1 million to [team owner] Steve Bisciotti six years from now? That's like 100 bucks for you or me today.''
Linta later tried a little damage control, but the appearance was not good. Especially when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were re-doing their contracts to improve the salary cap situations for their teams.
And as WNST radio man Nestor Aparicio wrote in his recent book, "Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story," it was Bisciotti who tried one last-ditch shot at a new contract for Flacco after Flacco and Linta turned down the original deal, which would have given Flacco an annual $1 million bonus if the Ravens won a Super Bowl during the contract, and a $2 million annual bonus if the Ravens won two Super Bowls. Bisciotti said that he had not talked to Flacco at all about his contract, but now, the stakes were higher, and he decided to intervene with a head-to-head in his office at the team's Owings Mills, Md. facility:
“There are two things here that I don’t understand,” Bisciotti said to Flacco. “I don’t understand why you’re walking away from this deal? As maligned as you are in the press and as little faith as so many pundits have in you, we’re offering you a $90 million deal and you can go wave that in their face and say, ‘F**k you guys! See, the Ravens DO believe in me!’”
Flacco was nonplussed. “I really don’t care about my critics,” he bluntly told the Ravens owner.
Bisciotti was exasperated. “I don’t understand it. Joe, don’t you think you’d play better with a clear head and having this contract behind you?” he continued. “You won’t have to answer questions from anybody, and you can just focus on playing and winning the Super Bowl.”
Flacco said it again. “Steve, I appreciate the offer, but I really don’t care about the media, critics, any of it. I’ve gotta trust my agent, and he doesn’t want any incentives in contracts. And I’ve gotta leave it to him.”
Bisciotti reasoned that until they won a Super Bowl together neither one would get that ultimate respect they desired. “I’m offering you a better deal than the one you’re asking me for if you’re planning on winning the Super Bowl,” he said.
Flacco wasn’t upset or emotional, as is his custom. He simply smiled and said he was going to play out the year. Bisciotti said, “Well, I tried,” as he shook Flacco’s hand. “Then go out and put a few rings on my desk and get what you think you deserve.”
That Flacco put one ring on Bisciotti's desk made the new deal and a new history with Flacco possible, Linta's granstanding aside. But what if Flacco hadn't helped the Ravens through the postseason, playing his best football when needed? Flacco said that he was willing to live with the risk if he got hurt, or didn't play as well as expected.
“I was actually glad that he called me up to talk about it because it was a cool conversation to have,” Flacco said. “Even though we weren’t agreeing it was a great conversation. It’s one of those talks that grows a relationship, I think. Hey, I tried to throw him a bone and save him some money.”
It worked out for Flacco in the end, but one wonders if Linta would be defending charges regarding his own "dumb moves" had things gone differently.