Posted February 07, 2013

NFL offseason storylines: Joe Flacco, Darrelle Revis contracts in spotlight

Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, NFL Free Agency, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins
Joe Flacco tied Joe Montana's record for most postseason touchdowns (11) without an interception. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Joe Flacco tied Joe Montana’s record for most postseason touchdowns (11) without an interception. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The NFL has the longest offseason of any of America’s major pro sports. Yet, save for maybe a couple of weeks in May, the league hardly takes off any real time.

The Baltimore Ravens were crowned Super Bowl XLVII champions less than a week ago, and already teams have begun making roster moves, as free agency and the draft approach in rapid fashion.

So, which storylines are at the top of the list as we prep for the 2013 season? Here are 10 to watch:

1. How much will Joe Flacco get paid?

As recently as early January, there were questions about Joe Flacco’s capability to ever lead the Ravens to the promised land.

What a difference a Vince Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl MVP award can make.

Now, as Flacco embarks on an offseason in which he could hit free agency, his agent is lobbying for the Ravens to make Flacco the highest-paid quarterback in the league — surpassing Drew Brees’ $20 million-per-year and Peyton Manning’s $18 million-per-year averages.

Outside of Baltimore you still would be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks Flacco is a superior quarterback to either Brees or Manning. But Flacco was absolutely brilliant during the playoffs (11 touchdown passes, no interceptions) and has every right to strike while iron is hot.

There is no chance the Ravens let Flacco leave in free agency, so the fallback plan would be to slap the exclusive franchise tag on him. Doing so would cost Baltimore $20 million for the 2013 season. If they think Flacco is worth that much anyway, the Ravens may wind up signing a huge paycheck.

2. Darrelle Revis’ future

Are the New York Jets really, truly committed to relocating Revis Island? Because of their horrible salary cap situation, they may not have a choice.

The Jets currently sit about $20 million over next season’s projected cap — a number that includes the $6 million ($3 million base plus bonuses) Revis is due in 2013. That, obviously, does not leave room for the Jets to bump Revis’ contract up to where the cornerback wants it. Revis is in the final year of his deal, so the Jets may opt to deal him and get something in return, rather than watch him leave next offseason for nothing.

Despite coming off a torn ACL, Revis believes he should be the league’s highest-paid defensive player (last year, Mario Williams got $100 million over six years, with $50 million guaranteed) , which is a hurdle any team looking to trade for the shut-down corner will have to jump.

3. RGIII’s rehab

The heart of every Redskins fan sank on Jan. 6, when Robert Griffin III crumpled to the FedEx Field turf, clutching his knee during a playoff loss to the Seahawks. The torn ACL and LCL that Griffin suffered that day required extensive surgery and put his status for the 2013 season in jeopardy.

Griffin has promised to be ready for Week 1 — an Adrian Petersonesque timetable for recovery. The safer bet is that Griffin misses at least a few games to start next season, with Kirk Cousins and a yet-unnamed veteran duking it out to replace him in the lineup.

Peterson’s sensational return from his own knee injury set an extremely high bar for injured players after him. Expecting Griffin to come back as quickly and in as incredible shape as Peterson is unfair. That’s what Redskins fans are hoping for, though.

4. What will the Chiefs do at No. 1?

Last year, we knew weeks before the NFL Draft arrived that the Indianapolis Colts planned to take Andrew Luck at No. 1 overall. Had the Colts passed on Luck, RGIII was there waiting for them, too.

The Chiefs do not have such good fortune this year.

There is no clear-cut No. 1 pick on this year’s board, and the consensus best player available (offensive tackle Luke Joeckel) may be a luxury pick Kansas City cannot afford, if free agent tackle Branden Albert re-signs with the Chiefs.

So, the drama surrounding the top spot in the draft could last until late April, when the league heads to New York. Will Kansas City nab Joeckel? How about Geno Smith or a new quarterback for Andy Reid to mold, a la Donovan McNabb? Or is a trade-down scenario on the table?

No one knows for sure right now, and that likely includes the Chiefs’ front office.

5. The Manti Te’o mystery

Another draft storyline to track involves that of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, whose bizarre, fake romance captured the attention of the nation after the BCS title game.

Te’o once was believed to be (erroneously) a top-10 prospect in this year’s draft class. Then his stock took a hit in that national championship game, when he often looked lost against Alabama’s offensive line. Now, after the catfish scandal, any speculation about his stock is on hold until Te’o arrives at the Scouting Combine and conducts interviews with teams. Will Te’o do enough in Indianapolis to convince the NFL that his on-field abilities outweigh his mystifying past?

6. Which uniform will Michael Vick wear in 2013?

The Eagles opted not to cut Vick on Wednesday, and in doing so, guaranteed $3 million of the $15.5 million Vick currently is set to make for the upcoming season. At some point, Philadelphia has to pay Vick that other $12.5 million, renegotiate his deal to whittle down that figure, trade him or release him.

That final option is the gutsiest, as it could leave the Eagles still on the hook for Vick’s full contract.

By holding onto the controversial QB for now, Philadelphia gives Chip Kelly more of an opportunity to analyze his current QB situation and figure out his next move. Perhaps Vick will wind up figuring into the Eagles’ plans, after all.

If he does not, then the likely conclusion here is a trade. There are several teams in need of a starting quarterback — Kansas City, Arizona and Jacksonville come to mind. Would any of those teams be willing to roll the dice on a soon-to-be 33-year-old Vick?

7. Key offseason for new coaches

While Chip Kelly’s name is in the discussion …

The former Oregon coach now has the reins in Philadelphia, and a lot of intrigued eyes will be cast his direction to see if Kelly’s style can translate at the NFL level. He is one of two college coaches to make the leap this year — Buffalo’s Doug Marrone, most recently of Syracuse, the other.

The man that Kelly took over for, Andy Reid, ought to garner his fair share of attention, as well. Tasked with turning the Chiefs back into contenders, Reid faces an uphill climb after Kansas City inexplicably slumped to a 2-14 finish in 2012. That’s seven fewer wins than Bruce Arians racked up as the Colts’ interim coach, while Chuck Pagano battled leukemia. Arians parlayed his masterful fill-in job with the Colts into the top spot in Arizona.

Three coordinators will get their shots as head coaches, too: ex-Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley (Jacksonville), ex-Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy (San Diego) and ex-Panthers OC Rob Chudzinski (Cleveland).

Oh, and Chicago, primed to be a contending team, pulled the trigger on an extremely interesting hire, plucking the offensive-minded Marc Trestman from the CFL.

For more on all of those moves, check out my grades for all of this year’s coaching hires.

8. Dealing with disgruntled QBs

Vick may not be the only big-name quarterback on the move this offseason. Both Alex Smith (San Francisco) and Tim Tebow (Jets) will be in new uniforms next year, if they have anything to say about it. And Matt Flynn, who lost Seattle’s starting job to Russell Wilson, also might find a new home before the 2013 campaign.

Tebow’s NFL ship may have sailed by this point, but Smith played extremely well in 2012 prior to the injury that opened the door for Colin Kaepernick to take the 49ers’ job. Could he be the answer for Kelly in Philadelphia or Reid in Kansas City?

9. Welcome back, Sean Payton

Finally, there is a sense of normalcy being restored in the Saints’ organization. After a tumultuous and frustrating 2012 season, New Orleans is eager to deliver a bounce-back 2013 effort — and the recent reinstatement of head coach Sean Payton from his year-long NFL suspension ought to help.

Even better for the Saints: Payton wanted to stay in New Orleans, signing a new long-term deal, when he could have jumped ship. He made his presence felt immediately, firing DC Steve Spagnuolo after just one season with the team, and announcing a switch to the 3-4 defense, just three days after Payton was allowed back with the team.

10. Tracking a tantalizing free-agent class

There’s a former No. 1 pick about to hit the market in Miami left tackle Jake Long. Oh, and several very talented wide receivers, like Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings, Dwayne Bowe and Wes Welker all could be free agents. Plus, longtime defensive stalwarts Brian Urlacher and Ed Reed are in need of new contracts — and possibly new teams.

And all that is just the tip of the iceberg on 2013 free agency.

Complicating matters for a lot of teams: a salary cap that’s expected to stay mostly flat, meaning several more big names could wind up being cut (like the Giants’ Ahmad Bradshaw on Wednesday).

This free agent class could be loaded, but how many teams will have money to spend?

GALLERY: UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
GALLERY: EARLY ENTRANTS IN THE DRAFT
GALLERY: NFL’S AVERAGE SALARIES BY POSITION
GALLERY: BIGGEST ONE-SEASON TURNAROUNDS

22 comments
DavidAllen2
DavidAllen2

In what alternate universe did Flacco win the Vince Lombardi Trophy? The Blackout seemed very convenient at 28-6 with the 49ers on the verge of another 3 and out. One more Ravens score and 50 million hands reach for the remote. Nice timing.

jdbolick
jdbolick

Also, Michael Vick's $3 million only has to be paid if the Eagles release him and he doesn't sign with any other team.  If you need a fact-checker, I'll give you a good hourly rate.

jdbolick
jdbolick

The 2013 franchise tag for quarterbacks will be $14.62 million, which is a HUGE difference from "$20 million."

Shawn4
Shawn4

Why is Mr. Burke even bringing up the "luxury" the Chefs don't have? Really? Isn't there a rookie salary cap? So why drafting Joeckel such a risk? If it was 3 years ago I can see Mr. Burkes point...maybe he should jump back to the future and the current wage scales for rookies! Jeesh!

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Poor KC. The first pick and no real star out there. Can't they defer the pick, like when you win the coin toss, until next year, just in case?

And there is betting in DC that if Dan Snyder doesn't change the name 'Redskins' to a less offensive one God will punish the team.

JamesDipalma
JamesDipalma

 @DavidAllen2 people seem to forget so easily. when the lights came back on it was 3rd and 12, and we DID NOT get the first down. we punted. momentum? what momentum did we have? if you dont know what your talkin about then don't. we handed the ravens a 3 and out on the NEXT series and THEN made our comeback. stop using the lights out as a reason that we came back. maybe you should look at the game tape and realize the ravens were practically handed the super bowl with that horrible officiating. by the way the lights didnt go out in atlanta when we were don 17-0 and what was the outcome of that game?

bbc
bbc

I read in a couple of articles that "exclusive" franchise tag is $20 million. If Ravens go with the regular franchise tag worth $14.62 million plenty of QB needy teams will swoop on Flacco by matching that number and throwing in the picks. Considering Flacco is just 28, was the SB MVP and had the best post-season of any QB since Montana in 1989, Ravens will hand him a huge contract. Ravens had the chance to sign him to a long term contract but they decided to play it safe andnow they will have to pony up the cash.

salvaje50
salvaje50

 @jdbolick There are two different types of franchise tags.  The one you list is risky because a team can offer Flacco a poison pill contract and give the Ravens two 1st round picks for Flacco.  If the Ravens put an exclusive rights tag on him they have to pay him almost $20 million for 2013 but no other team can give the Ravens an offer sheet for him.

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

 @Shawn4

When a team has the worst record in the NFL, it doesn't make much sense to try to strengthen an position where the incumbent allowed 1 sack in 2012 and has missed only 5 games in his 5 year career.

 

Strengthening a strength is what Superbowl winners do, it's a luxury that KC can't afford. Pay the man and address the bleeding ulcer that is the passing game.

Frank M
Frank M

I don;t think "can't afford" means money.  I think he just means that they will already have a good OT if they re-sign Albert, and with so many other holes to fill, it may not make sense to double up at that position.

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

 @Rickapolis

 Experts say that this is a pretty decent draft for O and D-linemen. That also happens to be one of KC's few bright spots. Bad luck there.

yeah_right
yeah_right

 @Rickapolis Do like the Vikings did a few years ago.  Just don't make a pick and let your time run out.  After a few teams have picked ahead of you then go ahead and pick.  That way you actually get to pick and pay for a #3 or #5 slot instead of the #1.  Of course the guy you want may not be there and your fans will revolt while everybody else thinks you're nuts, but hey...you might save a few bucks.

geeon1
geeon1

@Rickapolis Simple thing would be to trde the pick: they will not get anywhere near what the rams did when trading the pick that became RG3. This draft is really weak.

jdbolick
jdbolick

 @bbc That is wrong.  The exclusive franchise tag for quarterbacks is $14.62 million.  The non-exclusive franchise tag for quarterbacks is $14.4 million.  Some sites are saying $20 million because they're lazy and don't check their facts.

jdbolick
jdbolick

 @salvaje50 You need to check your facts.  The exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags both average the top five salaries, the only difference is in the time frame.  Exclusive would take the 2013 top five while non-exclusive would use the 2012 top five.  That average isn't significantly different, and certainly NOWHERE NEAR $20 million.

Lusis
Lusis

 @yeah_right  @Rickapolis Actually the guy Minnesota drafted ended getting money for the slot Minnesota originally would have picked.  So letting time still wouldn't save them any money.

jdbolick
jdbolick

 @jdbolick  @bbc Evidently I should have checked my own facts, as the SI number was apparently correct.  I was only counting base salary and signing bonus, but the franchise tag includes option and workout bonuses as well, which bumps the number pretty drastically.  Sorry for being wrong.

jdbolick
jdbolick

 @bbc Which is why almost all franchise tags are exclusive.

bbc
bbc

That shouldn't be a problem for Ravens then but it's a bit weird that you only need to pay $0.22 million to franchise a QB exclusively.

JayMadisonHamilton
JayMadisonHamilton

 @salvaje50  @jdbolick I'm on jdbolick's side on this one.  The gist of what to do with Vick depends on lot on how much money is involved (same as Payton Manning last year).  In order for public opinion to have an opinion, it is most helpful if the monetary facts are accurate.

 

salvaje50
salvaje50

 @jdbolick  @salvaje50 Mike and Mike said that on one of their shows.  If they are wrong then so be it.  If you want to spend all day fact-checking articles on here then go for it, slick

jdbolick
jdbolick

 @salvaje50 And the $14.62 million figure actually was the exclusive rights one.