Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco cashed in on his championship season by signing the richest contract in National Football League history -- a six-year, $120.6 million deal that includes a $29 million signing bonus and $52 million in guaranteed money.
The agreement allows Flacco, 28, to avoid being labeled the team’s franchise player, which would have forced him to sign a one-year contract worth $14.9 million and place all the risk of injury on the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player.
“It was never about the money, it was about earning the respect,” Flacco, who threw for three touchdowns in leading the Ravens to a 34-31 Super Bowl victory last month against the San Francisco 49ers, said yesterday in a news conference.
The Kansas City Chiefs re-signed wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who has led the team in receptions and yards receiving each of the past four seasons and is projected as the top target for new quarterback Alex Smith. Bowe signed a five-year contract, ESPN reported, citing an unidentified person familiar with the negotiations.
Eight players weren’t as lucky as Flacco, receiving the franchise tag that keeps them with their teams for at least another season rather than long-term deals.
Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks, Denver Broncos offensive tackle Ryan Clady, Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer all received the non-exclusive franchise tag. No players were given the exclusive franchise label.
The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement creates two types of franchise labels.
A non-exclusive tag requires a team to offer a one-year contract based on the five-year average salary for the top five players at the position and the league-wide salary cap, or 120 percent of a player’s salary from the previous year, whichever is greater. If another team lures the player with a better contract, the original team is compensated with two first-round draft picks.
An exclusive tag bars a player from signing with another club. The team is required to pay a one-year salary equal to the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position in the current league year, or 120 percent of the previous year’s salary, whichever is higher.
Both player and team are motivated to avoid the franchise tag.
The player gets more guaranteed money if he signs a long-term deal, protecting him from the risk of a career-ending injury or a decline in performance.
A long-term agreement allows a team to pay a big signing bonus and smaller annual salaries. Because the signing bonus is pro-rated over the life of the contract for salary cap purposes, it eats up less of the team’s cap room and allows the team to sign more top players.
The impact of Flacco’s contract on the Ravens’ salary cap will increase over time, with Sports Illustrated reporting that it will account for $29 million against the salary cap in the fourth year of the agreement.
Flacco’s salary cap number this upcoming season is $6.8 million of the team’s $123 million total, according to NFL.com, which gives the Super Bowl champions a lot of room to sign other players.
The non-exclusive franchise tag minimum salary for each position is: quarterback $14,896,000, running back $8,219,000, wide receiver $10,537,000, tight end $6,066,000, offensive lineman $9,828,000, defensive tackle $8,450,000, defensive end $11,175,000, linebacker $9,619,000, cornerback $10,854,000, safety $6,916,000 and kicker/punter $2,977,000, according to the NFL.