The argument about Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco being overpaid officially ended around 5 p.m. Tuesday, when Cam Newton signed his five-year, $103 million contract with the Carolina Panthers.
Newton got more guaranteed money and more money over the first three years of his deal than Flacco, and he's accomplished significantly less as an NFL quarterback. For anyone who laughed at the Ravens for giving Flacco an NFL record contract two years ago, you will probably need to be helped off the floor after seeing the Newton contract figures that were reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.
In comparing the first three years of their deals, Newton will earn $67.6 million, which is $5.6 million more than Flacco ($62 million). Newton will also receive $60 million guaranteed, which exceeds Flacco by $9 million.
The difference is Flacco earned his big-money deal. Before signing his six-year, $120.6 million contract in March 2013, he posted a 54-26 record (.675) and led the Ravens to five straight playoff seasons, which included an MVP performance in the Super Bowl. Newton has a losing record as a starter (30-31) and has managed one playoff victory.
In terms of passing numbers, Flacco and Newton have similar production. In Flacco's first five seasons (before the big contract), he threw 102 touchdowns and 56 interceptions for a 86.3 passer rating. In four years, Newton has 82 passing touchdowns and 54 interceptions for a 85.4 rating.
The difference is the Ravens signed Flacco at the height of his career. He had just put up Montana-like numbers in the playoffs with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Newton's passing yardage has decreased in each of his four seasons. Last season, he had career lows in passing yards (3,127), touchdowns (18), yards per attempt (6.6) and passing rating (82.1).
In reality, any criticism over Flacco's deal should have died down by now. At this point, it looks like Flacco's deal is a bargain at the going rate for young quarterbacks. Since Flacco signed his contract, Newton, Ryan Tannehill, Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler have reached deals that average over $18 million per season. Flacco's average of $20.1 million is now a solid value considering he's won more games than any other quarterback since 2008 and he's guided the Ravens to the playoffs in six of seven seasons. He's also coming off a a season in which he set career highs in passing yards (3,986) and touchdowns (27).
Flacco will be cashing in again shortly. His cap number of $28.55 million in 2016 will force the Ravens and Flacco to rework his contract. The Ravens are going to have to pay a premium price for Flacco, especially after coach John Harbaugh proclaimed him a "superstar in the National Football League."
So, come March, there will probably be new material for those wanting to criticize the Ravens for overpaying Flacco. But, for right now, that simply isn't the case.