It only looks like Flacco and John Harbaugh are holding hands here.

Joe Flacco is due to become a free agent after the 2012 season, which means this offseason will be crucial for Flacco, his agent and the Ravens if they want to continue working together in 2013 and beyond.

The agent, a Mr. Joe Linta, is already hard at work spinning Flacco’s accomplishments. And although it’s a classic negotiation maneuver to begin with quasi-outrageous demands stemming from your side of the table, something tells us that coming to terms on an extension won’t be a swift or simple task.

That’s because Linta might start the process expecting Flacco to be paid like a top-five quarterback.

From the Baltimore Sun:

“If the game is about wins and losses, he has to be in the top five [quarterbacks],” Linta said. “He is a player who has been extremely durable, never missed a game. And he’s done something that no one has ever done. In his four years in the league, he has never missed a game and has more wins than any other quarterback.”

The game is indeed ultimately about wins and losses, but Linta knows damn well that a quarterback’s record is only one piece of criteria for what makes a signal caller good and/or bad at his craft. The Ravens will obviously argue that their top-end running game and aggressive defense have accounted for wins more often than the passing game has.

Flacco did not help his own cause in 2011. Despite “winning” 12 games, his completion percentage dropped by five points, he posted a career-low 6.7 yards per attempt and he had to be saved by his teammates upon laying an egg in the wild-card playoffs.

His 44-20 career regular-season win-loss record is impressive, but Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan have actually won a higher percentage of their starts in that same span, so technically Linta is wrong about Flacco being worth top-five money on the merits of his wins and losses alone.

Flacco’s 44 wins are the most by a quarterback in his first four seasons in NFL history, but based on his dip in production in 2011, I doubt the Ravens are overly confident in his ability to lead the team in both the long- and short-term future. The best move the team can make at this point? Let Flacco sweat in a contract year, and if he continues to lack consistency and confidence in the pocket, cut bait. If he steps up and truly does become an elite quarterback, that’s what the franchise tag is for.