Cumberland Times-News

February 26, 2013

Brady deal, Flacco deal not the same deal

Mike Burke
Cumberland Times-News

— Yes, yes, Tom is great, Tom is good, and his teammates thank him for their food. Amen.

Actually, seeing how that Tom is three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady, that would be an accurate assessment, and given the salary cap-friendly contract extension he just agreed to with the New England Patriots, there will be more Patriots players who will have the opportunity to buy more food. But keep in mind, what Brady signed is an extension of the two years he has remaining on his current contact, which should take him to the final three years of his career when he will be 38 to 40 years of age. He didn’t re-work his existing deal to alter the way he will be paid and to create more cap space for his teammates, although he has done that in the past.

People make light of this extension, which will pay Brady $27 million for three years, because he has already made so much money in his career and his supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen makes so much more. “Oh, how on earth — wink, wink — will he ever be able to live on just $9 million?”

That’s not the point, and that’s not how it works anyway. For even though Brady’s average base salary will now be lower, the guaranteed money the Patriots will pay him is doubled. That’s how it works.

Look, it’s Brady’s money, money he has and will earn. And frankly, he’s entitled to make as much money as he wishes to make, given all he continues to accomplish in his career. Nobody has the right to deny him that, nor has anybody the right to suggest that Joe Flacco is the type to pull wings off of butterflies if he doesn’t agree to less than the market he’s earned in an effort to help his team through its desperate salary cap straits.

Besides, the Brady and Flacco contract situations are apples and oranges. Brady, nearing the end of his career at age 35, signed an extension; Flacco, who is 28, is a free agent just coming out of his rookie contract, and he’s in line for Super Bowl-winning quarterback money, which is in the neighborhood of $20 million per year.

“Oh, he should just take $16 million so the Ravens can keep all of their free agents.”

Why should he? He turned down more than that before the season started and then produced one of the greatest postseason runs by a quarterback in NFL history. Not only that, Flacco’s taking $16 million isn’t going to save too many free agents for the Ravens. They’re more likely to retain more of their free agents by giving Flacco the deal he’s earned and front-load it with guaranteed money, the way the Patriots just did with Brady in cutting his average base salary. Then, a few years down the road, it will be time for Flacco to re-work his contract, the way just about every highest-paid Raven has done in the past.

Which begs the next question: Why must Flacco be the only Raven to take less for the good of the team? Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata are walking around these days with over-stuffed George Costanza wallets, the only difference being theirs are stuffed with money. And if you want to get ticky-tacky, Rice wasn’t too stellar through the playoffs, and Suggs and Ngata missed significant time last year to injuries. But there’s no need to be ticky-tacky. All four players were critical to the Ravens’ world championship, and you can be sure a way will be found to ensure they will be to their future.

Given the Ravens’ history as an organization, the good money is on them to figure out the best thing to do in this situation. But no Super Bowl champion ever comes back intact the following season, and the Ravens will be no exception to that. That’s just a fact of life in today’s NFL, but so, too, is having a quarterback you believe can have you in contention for the Super Bowl.

Through most of their history, the Ravens have not had one of those, including, through their questionable judgment, the quarterback who led them to their first Super Bowl title. Go ahead. Take a look at that history — traditionally great defenses that were able to carry them so far in the playoffs, with the missing link through so many squandered Super Bowl opportunities being a quarterback who could make the difference in the postseason.

Now that they finally do have one, don’t expect them to give him everything he wants no questions asked. At the same time, the Ravens owe it to him, as well as to their fans — even the startling number who still don’t believe Joe Flacco can win a Super Bowl (um, it was in all the papers) — to give him the closest thing to everything he wants.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com