posted at 2/6/2013 12:41 PM EST
Flaco is 28, had the highest passer rating in the league this year, third in interceptions, has won more games than any other QB since he came into the league, has more playoff road wins than any other QB ever, etc. etc.
Is he Manning or Brady in their primes, maybe not, but he is young, strong, has the longest consecutive game streak, and has outplayed Brees, Brady, Manning, and Rogers over the last few years. AND his contract is up this year and inflation at the top end always happens.
I am pretty sure Balt knew he was going to be looking for 20M/yr - he has been saying that for two years now. They can franchise him but that is going to be a huge cap hit at 15M - on a contract they can probably drop that number down quite a bit for the first few years.
It is going to have an effect on what the rest of the team looks like - of course. They are going to lose a lot of wiggle room on other veteran contracts. But they aren't stupid and have known this day was coming. And they have some decent young guys in the pipeline.
This is what people seem to miss when criticizing BB and the Pats. A top veteran QB takes up 1/6th of your cap. Add in a few other important top veteran leaders and you are at 50% of your cap quickly. You then have to find another 12-15 starters and 30+ reserves for a total of around 60M or 1.1M each.
In 2013 currently Brady, Wilfork, and Mankins come in at 42M in cap space. Add in Mayo (5.6M), Lloyd (4.5M), Hernandez (4M), and Gostkowski (3.4M) and you are at 60M. That is 7 players out of about 60 final roster plus injured reserve players. So the other 53 players average yearly salary is $1.1M. So signing say Talib to a 5M contract means you have to offset with 6 or 7 players on minimum contracts. Welker at 7M means 10 players on minimums. And you can't just cut veteran players on high cap hit salaries because you typically take a pretty serious dead money cap hit. The seven players above if cut would have a 62.6M dead money hit! (prorated bonus money)
I suspect the Pats may try to extend Brady this year to spread his cap hit out a little, but the economics of building and maintaining a team are pretty clear. Roster churn and letting players like Samuels and Seymour leave makes a little more sense. And renting players for a year like Carter and Anderson when their value was low also makes sense.