Quarterback Joe Flacco expressed disappointment during the weekend that the Ravens have decided to wait on a contract extension until next off season, but that's a wise move by the organization.
While Flacco thinks he might be the team's quarterback of the future, apparently the organization has some doubt despite the ringing endorsement by owner Steve Bisciotti at the end of the season. Flacco apparently is having difficulty trying to figure out the team's decision to hold off, but there are basically two questions he should ask himself.
Is he the Ravens' quarterback of the future? Maybe.
Is he the Ravens' quarterback of the future now? No.
Case closed. No extension until further notice.
Flacco, 26, has two years remaining on the original contract he signed after he was the team's first round pick in 2008 out of the University of Delaware. There can be major arguments made in his favor for an extension now. He is the Ravens' all-time leading passer in yards (10,206), touchdown passes (60), completions (878) and attempts (1,416).
He is just the third starting quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to reach the playoffs in his first three NFL seasons, joining Bernie Kosar and Dan Marino.
But here is the rub: Flacco hasn't won many really big games. In fact, he doesn't usually play well in the games against Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and New England, teams you have to beat if you want to get to the Super Bowl.
He took a major step in that direction with a strong post-season performance against Kansas City in the opening round of the 2010 playoffs, but then bombed like the rest of the Ravens in the second half a week later against the Steelers.
Behind the scenes, Flacco and his agents have privately lobbied the Ravens for a new contract, but that wasn't going to happen. The indication came at the end of the season news conference in January when general manager Ozzie Newsome, while heaping praise on Flacco, also said he was a "guy that can be inconsistent, not get it done at times."
Hint, hint. No new contract.
Newsome never says anything like that about a player publicly, but on this day those words leaked out, allowing you to see Flacco through the eyes of his employers. Flacco has the Ravens moving in the right direction, but not even the Ravens are sure he is the quarterback to get them over the proverbial hump.
There are still a lot of questions about Flacco. He struggles putting touch on long passes. His delivery sometimes is slow and methodical because he doesn't always get a good bend in his knees. He still locks too much on a receiver, but made significant progress last season.
There are still concerns about if he can consistently make big-league throws over the middle in tight windows and if he can develop that leadership presence on offense, which is so desperately needed.
And maybe most importantly, can Flacco and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron patch up their relationship and build a strong passing game?
"If you don't sign me this year, you're making me play a whole year of my contract with no security," Flacco told The Sun over the weekend. "In a year from now, I'm going to be thinking, 'Hey, they already made me play one year without another contract, what's the harm in playing another year and seeing what happens after that?"
OK, that's no big deal, because the Ravens have the trump card anyway. They can put a franchise tag on him. Flacco has no leverage. He can't win the public relations game at this time, not in this economy and not when he's scheduled to make $4.5 million this season and $4.6 million in 2012.
Plus, the Ravens' dealings with Flacco have been consistent with some of the team's other top stars. They signed tight end Todd Heap and safety Ed Reed to contract extensions before entering the final year of their contracts, but they also used the franchise tag on cornerback Chris McAlister and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs before signing them to lucrative contracts.
It's perfectly understandable why Flacco wants a new deal. Actually, it's a good sign that he stepped up to voice his displeasure, just like it was when he criticized the organization for firing quarterback coach Jim Zorn early in the off season. To some, Flacco might be stepping over the line as a complainer, but at least he appears to have a voice at The Castle these days.
But there is a deeper message the Ravens are sending Flacco. They are telling him it's time to take over and win big games in the postseason. That's when quarterback legends are born.
That when they earn big paydays.