This doesn't come as a surprise because Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti anticipated a year ago that negotiations would begin this offseason. But this could be the start of a long process in determining Flacco's value as a starting quarterback.
His contract should be at the top of the second-tier quarterbacks. That market was set by the Cardinals' Kevin Kolb (six years, $65 million with $$21.5 million guaranteed) and the Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick (six years, $59 million with $24 million guaranteed).
But Flacco shouldn't come close to the top-tier ones. That's reserved for the likes of the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger (eight years, $102 million) and the Giants' Eli Manning (seven years, $106.9 million).
That's a big gap between those two levels of quarterbacks, so it will be interesting to see at what number the sides agree to meet. By my estimation, Flacco will get between $30 million and $35 million guaranteed.
Flacco's statistics are steady although not spectacular. Over the past three seasons, he's shown that he's good for 3,600 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Last season, he threw for under 200 yards in nearly half of his regular-season games (seven times). That's not exactly in the same league as Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
Flacco, though, has been among the NFL's best when it comes to winning. Flacco's 44 regular-season victories are the most by a quarterback in his first four seasons in NFL history. He also became the first starting quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons. Flacco was one dropped pass away from leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl this year.
"The thing that I like about Joe -- and I think in the end, when you're in this business -- you are judged on one thing: winning. Joe wins," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said at the season-ending news conference. "If he continues to win, if one pass is caught, he'd be in a Super Bowl. And I think he's going to win Super Bowls -- a lot of them. And I hope to be a part of them. He has improved. But the thing that you cannot knock about Joe is that he's a winner."
Flacco's deal will ultimately get done. But it will take some time to find the common ground.