And so Joe Flacco’s spring and summer of discontent officially begins.
It was pointed out here recently that by the time training camp rolls around, Flacco, despite leading the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl championship (oh, yeah ... that) will be blamed for everything from the budget, to the Lindbergh baby, to Dennis Rodman and to Iran suing Ben Affleck over “Argo.” And so it begins, as Monday the Ravens traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round draft pick, with the blame lying squarely on, you guessed it, Joe Flacco.
Hey, at least the Ravens got something. After Boldin refused to take a $2 million cut in next year’s salary (and I don’t blame him), they were just going to release him. The way the Ravens draft, that sixth-rounder will likely end up being something. The Redskins, after all, found something in Albert Morris in the sixth round of last year’s draft, so who knows?
Meanwhile, with Tuesday marking the beginning of NFL free agency, Flacco’s in for plenty more blame as the Ravens, a team with severe salary cap (oh, yeah ... that) issues, have lost, and are likely to lose even more popular players, with linebackers Dannell Ellerbe, the Ravens’ most urgent keep, and Paul Kruger not wasting any time in signing with the Dolphins and Browns, respectively. Safety Ed Reed and cornerback Cary Williams now head the list of Ravens free agents, and there is still some discussion that Jacoby Jones, another Super Bowl hero like Boldin, may well meet the same fate as Boldin, which means Lucy’s gonna have some serious ’splainin’ to do.
As for the Hall of Famer Reed, nobody, specifically Ed Reed, ever knows what Ed Reed wants, while the Ravens have already told Williams he’s not a priority.
All Flacco’s fault. After all, he had the audacity to seek, then sign, a deal that — before Maryland taxes — makes him the highest paid player in the NFL. Really? This bozo deserves $120.6 million over six years?
Yes, he does.
The Ravens do not win a Super Bowl with Tyrod Taylor under center, although that they did with Trent Dilfer at quarterback certainly puts a fly in that pudding. But please remember, at one time Dilfer was a top-rated pro prospect and, oh, yes, that Ravens team was led by one of the most dominant defenses in history. Taylor’s college career will never be mistaken for the one Dilfer had. Nor has any NFL defense since been mistaken for the 2000-01 Ravens defense, including the 2012-13 version.
Why did Flacco take so much of the pie? Because he deserved it.
But Tom Brady just took less and Drew Brees is about to in order to help their teams’ salary caps. Yes, Tom Brady restructured after Tom Brady had already gotten his. Not only that, Tom Brady’s guaranteed money now doubles with his restructured deal, so let’s just ixnay any Mother Teresa comparisons here. As for Brees, he didn’t give the Saints any breaks last year when he negotiated his original deal, did he? But he is now because once these deals are in place for a time, they are normally re-worked. That is what will happen with Flacco after year two of his deal, as his first two years are cap-friendly, which should indicate just how severe the Ravens’ salary cap problems were before Flacco even signed.
The days of the Green Bay Packers dynasties are over in the NFL because the NFL has made sure they are over, beginning with the inverted order of the draft and cemented by the salary cap and non-guaranteed contracts. And if anybody is to blame for that, it’s the players for always caving to the owners’ lockouts, as NFL owners, as in no other professional sport, have the players by the short hairs.
The NFL demands parity, and the NFL gets it. Think about it: the Ravens have won two Super Bowls in 12 seasons, which is about as good as it gets, with New England’s three being the most in that time, followed by Baltimore’s, New York’s and Pittsburgh’s two.
In that time, the only team to come close to winning the Super Bowl the way the Ravens of 2001 did was the 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had a more serviceable quarterback in Brad Johnson than those Ravens did, but whose bread and butter was overpowering defense. Every other one of those Super Bowls was won by teams with great quarterbacks — Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
As he just produced NFL postseason numbers that only Joe Montana had had before, add Flacco to that list. And when you’re on that list, you earn a contract for getting on that list.
Would the Ravens have won the Super Bowl without Boldin, Ellerbe and Kruger? Likely not. Would they have won the Super Bowl with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback? Absolutely not. Receivers and linebackers, even those as good as Boldin, Ellerbe and Kruger played, can and are replaced. In this day and age, quarterbacks such as Flacco, the only quarterback in NFL history to win playoff games his first five seasons, are not.
So let’s have no more of this nonsense. He deserves every cent he signed for.
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at email@example.com