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I like Joe Flacco. Honest.

I don’t know him personally, although the Internet tells me that his wife is pretty cool. Oh and she’s much smaller than him, which may or may not make certain household activities…interesting.

He’s a talented quarterback, and he was very deserving of the Super Bowl MVP award, even if there was a strong argument for Jacoby Jones, and maybe even Anquan Boldin. Regardless, this point remains in abundance: Flacco had a great second half of the 2012 season, a terrific run that peaked during the playoffs when he became the only quarterback not named Joe Montana to throw 11 post-season touchdown passes without an interception.

Yes sir, he was that good. No, he was that great, and he’s continued to fuel a debate as to whether or not he is, in fact, elite. So many ughs.

It’s easy to despise that discussion thoroughly, only because the mention of that word — elite — now comes with a sea of white noise. But there’s one crucial area in which it’s very relevant, especially right now in early March with the market set to open in a week: finances.

Late last night we learned the details of Flacco’s new contract, a deal he’ll officially sign later this afternoon, and one that was first reported Friday. After agreeing to a six-year deal worth $120.6 million — an average annual salary of $20.1 million — he’s now the highest paid player in NFL history. That’s some serious bank, and it breaks down like this…

The most important number there is the $52 million, which means that regardless of what he does or doesn’t do, Flacco is guaranteed to make that much money. The problem here isn’t so much Flacco’s worth, and if he deserves to roll in that pool of green. It’s that his pool is so much deeper than that of his peers who are so much better and more accomplished.

I get it. There’s an age gap between Flacco and Drew Brees, one that’s six years in length. But that’s often severely overplayed since the elite quarterbacks — yeah I just dropped that word, what of it? — often play at a high level until their late 30′s, and even sometimes into their early 40′s. Tom Brady just signed a contract that will have him finish his career as a Patriot at the age of 40, while even with his wonky neck Peyton Manning will still cash in $20 million in 2013 at the age of 36.

Yet here we have Flacco, a quarterback who — despite his overall brilliance — logged seven games with a completion percentage of 55.0 or less this past season, and he’s making $12 million more in guaranteed money than Brees, the same Brees who threw 43 touchdown passes to Flacco’s 22. He’s also now approaching Brady money already ($60 million guaranteed), even though for those who enjoy citing such things as wins and Super Bowl wins, the Patriots QB has three rings.

But worst of all, there’s the Aaron Rodgers problem. Rodgers still has two years left on his current contract, meaning exactly one year from now we’ll be going through the same process with him, and discussing how much this Flacco guy is at fault for the dramatic inflation in quarterback contracts. Yet right now Flacco is not only in the same relative pay bracket as Manning, Brees, and Brady (seriously, think about that for a second), he’s also infinitely ahead of Rodgers. The Packers quarterback averages only $10.8 million in yearly base salary from a contract that was signed in 2008 and included only $20 million in guaranteed cash.

To an extent the sheer dollars comparison there is unfair, since Rodgers’ contract was signed at a time when he was first taking over for Brett Favre. But everything else — age, experience, accomplishments — is far more than fair, and the gap that now exists between Rodgers and Flacco shows just how much the Packers will need to pay their franchise arm to correct this injustice. With Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford all quickly approaching pay time, we’ll eventually reach a point where a major, franchise-changing quarterback will hit the open market, because eventually a team won’t be able to manage dedicating a significant percentage of their salary cap (somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million annually) to one player, and one position.

Blame Flacco.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • Brady’s contract is a real contract. Seriously. [MMQB]
  • Wes Welker isn’t getting franchised. So hey Robert Kraft, how are you spending that money? [Adam Schefter on Twitter]
  • But wait, progress has maybe been made on a Welker deal. [CSN New England]
  • Ezekiel Ansah didn’t even train for the Combine. Umm, wow. [National Football Post]