If the Ravens had failed to sign Ray Rice to a new deal, it wouldn't have bothered Baltimore to pay him the $7.7 million franchise tender. It's the average of the top five running back salaries in the league, and everyone would agree Rice is among the top three or four.
This isn't the case with Joe Flacco, and that's why there's pressure on the Ravens to sign their starting quarterback to a long-term contract. Flacco is a franchise quarterback. He's just not worth the franchise tag tender for quarterbacks.
There's no doubt the Ravens would put the tag on Flacco next offseason if they can't agree to a new deal. The Ravens have waited too long for a young quarterback like Flacco to let him hit free agency after this season. But it would be a stiff price to keep him. The franchise tag for quarterbacks is projected to exceed $15 million, which is a significant bump from his $8.8 million salary in the final year of his current contract.
Essentially, the Ravens would have to pay Flacco like a top-five quarterback when he has yet to reach that level. Paying Flacco $15 million would force other decisions because Baltimore has less than $15 million in salary-cap room in 2013. But it's easier to cut or restructure players than it is to find another quarterback.
Flacco is not stressing about his contract as training camp opens this week. “If it happens, it happens,” Flacco told the Baltimore Sun. “I see myself being here for many years no matter what happens."
Flacco has no reason to worry. He's either getting a long-term deal or $15 million-plus in 2013. In these negotiations, all of the pressure rests on the Ravens.