Five weeks after their Super Bowl win, the Baltimore Ravens are watching their roster unravel before their eyes. A roster that was already losing players like Ray Lewis and Matt Birk to retirement now must watch as one after another player leaves to go elsewhere. Why is this happening? Who is to blame?
It certainly shouldn’t be General Manager Ozzie Newsome, who has constructed the roster into a perennial contender. The blame should also not be sent to those players who are leaving. The NFL is a business and players reserve the right to leave and get paid as they wish. In a league that jeopardizes the long-term health of its players, the motto is to get as much money while you still can. This is why players who leave one organization to get paid in another shouldn’t be criticized for their free agency choices.
Instead, the criticism should be pointed toward a player who remains on the current Ravens roster. This player can and should be credited with leading the team to a Super Bowl victory. This player should and did receive an increase in his yearly salary. Because of this increase in salary, this player deserves the bulk of the criticism for the breakup of the Ravens. If you couldn’t guess it from my description, the player being described is Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
Flacco made it clear, heading into the off-season, that he intended to get paid. He perceives himself as one of the elite quarterbacks in the entire National Football League and believes he should be paid like one. As a result, the Ravens agreed with him and decided to pay him the money that they believe he earned.
Flacco signed a six-year contract worth $120.6 million, which made him the highest paid player in league history. His new, reworked and massive contract—whether it was deserved or not—will take up a large portion of the Ravens’ salary cap over the next six seasons. Thus, it should come as no surprise to fans why the Ravens all of a sudden are forced to make salary cap related personnel moves to save money.
I am not arguing that Flacco didn’t deserve some type of raise to his contract because of his performance. He had the type of season that merited a new contract that would pay him better than his previous contract did. However, did he need to be paid the largest contract in NFL history? I believe the answer to that is no.
The largest contract in NFL history should go to a player who is one of the greatest players in NFL history like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, not Flacco. Since he felt he should be paid like the game’s elite, he must now accept the criticism for the Ravens being forced to make roster moves to save salary cap space.
It is unfortunate that the Super Bowl champion Ravens must be decimated before they even have the opportunity to defend their title, but this is the nature of the beast when you pay a quarterback the type of money they did. These types of moves are going to be common over the next six seasons as the Ravens adjust to having Flacco’s contract on the books, unless they make a decision to rework his deal at some point.
With all of the departures on defense, it is hard to believe that the Ravens will be able to contend next season. If any team could do it, it would be the Ravens, but I believe this situation may be too much for the team to handle. While the team can be happy they have a Super Bowl winning quarterback on their roster, they will have to get used to having a below average supporting cast around him. Unless Lewis walks through the doors to save the Ravens, I think the downfall from a perennial contention has begun.