News broke Friday that quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens had agreed in principle to the richest contract in NFL history.
And Monday, the six-year, $120 million deal became official. Flacco spoke to the media this afternoon about having his future with Baltimore secured, and how it feels to ink such a lucrative contract.
"It means a lot. It was never necessarily about the money and all that, but it was definitely about earning that respect and feeling like I was respected around here," Flacco said. "The fact that we got it done and they have made me that definitely makes me feel good about how I played and how they feel about me."
Flacco, 28, is the Ravens' all-time leader in passing yards (17,633), touchdown passes (102), completions (1,507) and attempts (2,489), while ranking second in completion percentage (60.5).
In 2012, he led the team to a club scoring record (398 points) and the second-most yards in team history (5,640). His 63 wins between the regular season and playoffs are the most in the NFL since he was selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 2008 draft.
Flacco's durability also adds to his value, as he hasn't missed a game in his first five seasons, starting all 93 of the Ravens' games since he came aboard, including the postseason.
Flacco is the only quarterback in NFL history to win at least one playoff game in each of his first five seasons. On his way to leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl crown and earning the game's MVP honors this year, Flacco became just the second player ever to throw for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions during one playoff run.
Flacco and the Ravens came close to an extension before the 2012 season, but failed to come to an agreement - a gamble that obviously paid off for the passer.
"I thought I was worth more. I didn't really see any circumstances where I wouldn't end up getting paid more than what they were willing to give me at that point," he said. "It wasn't like I was going to make any different salary last year than I was making already. I might have gotten some up-front money, but once I signed that deal, if I played that deal out then I was going to get the same amount last year that I got anyway.
"So I figured play one more year and see what we could do as a football team, have confidence in myself, have confidence in the guys around me, and just let it play itself out from there."
But was it difficult for Flacco to take that risk, considering he could have been injured or seen his value diminished by an ineffective season?
"No. I guess it's seen as a big risk. The real risk is that I could get hurt, but I always kind of had faith that we were going to get something done here no matter what," Flacco said. "I didn't know that we were going to go win the Super Bowl, I didn't know all that. So that kind of helped the situation.
"Listen, winning a Super Bowl, winning a Super Bowl MVP, doesn't make me as valuable as I am. I think I bring to the table what I bring to the table. I think I'm an asset to this team and I'm worth what I'm worth. The fact that we won the Super Bowl just comes with that. If we didn't win the Super Bowl this year, I still think I'm worth the same and I still think I'm the same person to this organization. It may not be seen that way, but that's the bottom line. I still give us the best chance to win moving forward, whether we won or lost this year.
"I think it makes it a little bit easier for (owner Steve Bisciotti) to reach into his pockets at least, having said I won the Super Bowl. People don't have to look at him as crazy as they may have if he would've given me this much last year. But that was my feeling all along. When guys that are drafted in the first round, when guys that win football games for you, quarterbacks like that, when the time comes up for those guys to get paid, they usually become the highest-paid guy in the league.
"And then, I'm sure in a couple months from now, somebody's going to find a deal and you're going to be talking to them about how they're the highest-paid guy in NFL history. That's just the name of the game. I know that this isn't going to hold up for that long, but that's not a priority of mine - to be the highest-paid guy. The priority of mine was to get that respect that I feel now from this organization."
Update: Flacco was his low-key self when asked about how he celebrated his deal and how he'd spend the money.
Flacco said he doesn't anticipate doing anything crazy.
"Nothing immediately. Just going to look at it and be able to smile a little bit," he said. "Like I said, it's not one of those things you think about on a daily basis. I definitely have the freedom to do some things I otherwise wouldn't, but I don't have any immediate plans."
As for celebrating, Flacco said he'll drive home tonight and go out to dinner with a couple of people.
"I'm buying, yeah," he said.
Flacco had a chance at a bigger celebration over the weekend, however.
"(Ravens president) Dick Cass said it was the most unlikely group of people to go to Vegas ever. It was me, Todd Heap and Dennis Pitta," Flacco said. "We hung out in Vegas this past weekend. I was hoping that the deal would get done by that point, so we could maybe celebrate because that's a pretty good place to celebrate. It's a pretty easy place to blow a lot of money. But that didn't get done, but we had a good time out there kind of in anticipation to it. If nothing else, it was a little bit of a late celebration of the Super Bowl win.
"But, hey, I'm not going to do anything crazy. That's about all the celebration I can take, kind of going out and enjoying a nice little time with the people that are close to me and just kind of looking at each other, saying, 'Man, can you really believe where we are?' We've done that so many times over the last month, just looked at each other - my dad, my wife - and just shook our heads and laughed, 'Super Bowl champs.' It doesn't get any better than that and that's kind of still where we are with all that."
Flacco acknowledged that he understands why people might think he'd feel more pressure now that he is the highest-paid player in the league.
"I guess so if you're looking at it from your guy's view. But us as players and myself, you don't really feel that, I don't think," he said. "When you're on the field, you have confidence in what you're doing. You're just trying to execute the plays.
"The last thing you're worried about is what you're getting paid. Last year was probably more pressure than already getting to this point. Now it's all about getting the team back and getting them healthy and getting to where we can put that work in and get back to where we were last year."
Flacco said although Ray Lewis is gone and Ed Reed might be on the way out, he doesn't see the extension bringing added leadership responsibility.
"I think it's just like when you talk about playoffs versus regular season. I think if you start to try to do too much, then you are going to be the one that falters or makes mistakes," he said. "There's a reason that I'm standing up here at this point. It's because what I've done so far has been the right thing. I think it would be a bad move to do anything else.
"I'm going to be who I am. I'm going to continue to get better every year. I'm going to continue to get my guys better around me. But other than those things, other than continuing to push my teammates and myself, you're going to do everything the same."
Even though he's the highest-paid player in the NFL and the reigning Super Bowl MVP, Flacco doesn't anticipate more endorsements.
He said it's hard enough to get him off the couch, anyway.
"If anybody can come up to me and give me deals that I don't have to really do anything for, just take a picture like this (holding up a product), give me a little bit of equity in the company, I'm cool with that," he said. "If the right things come along, obviously. But when you get a $120 million contract, you don't need to be surfing for too much money."
Now that he could be in black and purple for the next six years, Flacco hopes this solidifies him as a Raven for life.
"I love playing here. It's been an awesome five years," he said. "We've had a spectacular team. We have an amazing group of fans. It's close to where I grew up. It's great for my family. There's a lot of really, really good benefits to playing for this organization. You can't say them all, but that's the plan. I can't see it happening every other way."