As the Ravens begin what will be an unpredictable offseason, the biggest storyline will be how and when they get their starting quarterback under contract.
Joe Flacco won't likely be going anywhere, and both the 28-year-old and the team have said as much.
Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti said Thursday that the team came close to an agreement with Flacco before the season and doesn't anticipate problems in negotiations this time around, despite the passer's perceive heightened value.
"That's what we wanted. We wanted to see him do this and he did," Bisciotti said. "This is history. So I have faith that it didn't set us back in our negotiations, really. We offered him a top-five contract last year and we will be back at the negotiating table. It was pretty close last year. And so we'll be right back at the table.
"I don't see us winning the Super Bowl making the negotiation any more difficult than it would have been had we gone out in the first round of the playoffs. That might have been more difficult. So we both know that we want each other. And it's up to Ozzie (Newsome) and (agent) Joe Linta to work that out. And then Joe and I will go golf or something like that. But I don't negotiate with Joe."
Flacco put together a solid first four seasons in the league as the starting quarterback for four Ravens playoff teams, winning a postseason game every year.
This year, his run to the finish was exceptional, beginning in the second half of a Dec. 16 loss to the Broncos all the way through Sunday's Super Bowl victory over the 49ers.
Flacco passed for 15 touchdowns and no interceptions during that time, leading the Ravens to 410.2 yards per game and 31 points per game during the playoffs.
He then earned Super Bowl MVP honors by going 22-for-33 for 287 yards, three touchdowns and no picks in the victory.
The team would prefer to not have to give Flacco the exclusive franchise tender, which is a one-year deal worth the average value of the top five quarterbacks' contracts in the league. A long-term contract would provide Baltimore with greater salary cap relief at a time it really needs it.
The Ravens are already facing significant cap issues and could use any help they can get.
"We're looking to get a fair deal with Joe," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "And yes, the franchise number does consume a lot of cap room. But we're looking for a fair deal, and Joe Linta's looking for a fair deal. And if we're able to get a deal done, it will allow us to be able to participate more in the market if we so choose. But we understand what the priority is."
Newsome feels good about the potential for getting a long-term agreement in place.
"I'm coming away today thinking that we can get a deal done," he said. "We got deals done with Haloti (Ngata), (Jonathan Ogden), Ray (Lewis), Ray Rice, Ed Reed, (Terrell) Suggs. I've got a very good owner who understands the business, who understands the importance of certain positions. So I'm optimistic. Which tag we'll use? I don't know, but we'll be prepared for either scenario."
Newsome said that if a deal is reached, the team doesn't plan to use the franchise tag on anyone else.
And even if the Ravens do go down the franchise route with Flacco, Newsome has a feeling the quarterback will show up for offseason work.
"I do know that Joe has a very good relationship with Jim Caldwell and it was amazingly nice to hear how Jim said yesterday in our meeting that anytime he would ask Joe to show up, he showed up," Newsome said. "So that relationship is there, and I think, Joe and Jim will be able to maintain that relationship while Pat (Moriarty), Joe Linta and I and Steve negotiate a deal. And I think that's huge."
Bisciotti has watched Flacco develop into one of the NFL's better quarterbacks during his time with the organization. That's part of why the owner wants Flacco in the fold for the extended future.
"I saw a guy just maturing the way we would expect for him to mature. We were sitting here last year and I said the same thing," Bisciotti said. "A husband, a father, a familiarity with what we were asking him to do. All those things work in his favor. I said last year I didn't expect him to change and he is who is he is and his demeanor we are very comfortable with.
"We don't need a screamer. I said I believe that the fans will be rewarded because of Joe's demeanor and Joe will be appreciated for it if he wins and we believe he is going to continue to win. Joe proved that you can win being like Joe and we're thrilled because we never thought we needed to change the way that Joe was like some of you all or some of our fans (suggested), and now he gets to say, 'I told you so.'
"So you can be like Joe and you can win. I told the national guys at the Super Bowl that and I said that he went to the 'Eli Manning School of Disrespect.' They gave Eli the same business and now he's got two Super Bowls and Peyton's got one, so we'll let Joe do it his way."