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Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said he's "optimistic" that the team will get a long-term deal done with quarterback Joe Flacco.
The Super Bowl MVP is not under contract for next season. Newsome said the sides were "very close" to a deal before the season began, but it was a mutual agreement to stop negotiations until the end of the season.
"I'm coming away today thinking that we can get a deal done," Newsome said at the "State of the Ravens" season-ending news conference. "We've got deals done with Haloti [Ngata], JO [Jonathan Ogden], Ray [Lewis], Ray Rice, Ed Reed, [Terrell] Suggs. I've got a very good owner who understands the business and understands the importance of certain positions. So I'm optimistic."
If the Ravens can't get a deal completed before the start of free agency, the team will put the franchise tag on Flacco. The exclusive tag, which would take Flacco off the free-agent market, would take $20 million of cap space this season.
"We're looking to get a fair deal done with Joe," Newsome said. "If we're able to get a deal done, it will allow us to be able to participate more in the market if we so choose. But we understand what the priority is."Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, was asked in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday whether Flacco should be the highest-paid at his position, to which he simply responded "Yes."
Flacco, 28, is younger than Peyton Manning (who's earning $18 million per year) and Drew Brees ($20 million), and now has as many Super Bowl titles as each of them. Linta said those are the numbers that matter.
"When you do a contract of this magnitude, you look at what is the player's body of work presently," Linta told CNBC. "And what are the expectations going forward over the next four, five or six years.
"Joe wins on both accounts."Although the Ravens have placed a high priority on signing Flacco to a long-term deal, the team has no intention of overpaying potential free agents or having several players restructure their contracts in order to keep the current roster intact. That's what happened 12 years ago, when Newsome sacrificed the future to mount another run at a championship. The Ravens backed up their 34-7 Super Bowl win over the New York Giants by returning to the playoffs, but they didn't get back to the Super Bowl. And then, after the season, they suffered the salary-cap blues. "We're not going to get caught up in the moment and do things to our salary cap and make decisions in the euphoria of winning that could hurt us in 2014 and 2015, like we did in 2001," owner Steve Bisciotti said. "Every single veteran (in 2001) was restructured so that, I think, every single veteran could stay, then we ended up losing so many people the next year. We don't want to do that." Newsome feels the same way. "We will not repeat what we did in 2001," he said. "We're trying to build where we can win Super Bowls more than just one more time. I think our team is structured differently this time, also. We do have some veterans that will probably be retiring (Lewis and possibly center Matt Birk) but we have a great nucleus of young players and players that are just heading into their prime that we're going to build this team around. "We're not going to be restricting contracts, do all of those different things just to be able to maintain this team just to make another run. We're not doing that. But that doesn't mean that we don't want to try and go and repeat." There are plenty of other issues to deal with during the offseason, so much so that Newsome, Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh and other high-ranking team officials met for 10 hours Wednesday to discuss virtually every player on the roster. Six starters become unrestricted free agents, including Flacco, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger, and Reed. Reed, 34, basked in the glow of his first Super Bowl title Sunday night. He remained giddy during the parade Tuesday, which gives Newsome hope of getting the nine-time Pro Bowl star under contract for 2013. "I think he wanted to let some time clear and at that point, he and I will sit down," Newsome said. "I think he realizes there may be some other options out there, but I think if you watched him, if you watched his body language over the course of the last eight to 10 days, (it's apparent) that he loves being here in Baltimore. I think we can use that to help make that relationship last a little bit longer." Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.