Keeping Joe Flacco through 2021 as important as cap space for Ravens

Flacco extension a win-win (3:13)

ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley explains why Joe Flacco's extension is a good move for the Ravens and their franchise quarterback. (3:13)

The three-year contract extension with quarterback Joe Flacco is expected to free up $6 million in salary cap room for the Baltimore Ravens, according to CBS Sports. While the Ravens were probably hoping for a little more cap space, securing Flacco for the long term is just as important as the short-term economics.

It took the Ravens 12 years to find a franchise quarterback, and Baltimore needs to keep him as long as possible. This new deal could allow Flacco to finish his career in Baltimore. By the time his contract expires after the 2021 season, Flacco will be close to turning 37.

Flacco is not an elite quarterback like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. But he's a Super Bowl-winning one. His regular-season statistics are often in the middle of the league. But his 104.1 passer rating in the playoffs since 2010 is the best of any quarterback with at least three starts over that time.

The biggest reason for the Ravens to recommit to Flacco is the alternative. If you think Baltimore can do better than Flacco, look at the current options for quarterback-needy teams. The best options in free agency are an inexperienced Brock Osweiler and journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. The top quarterbacks in the draft are an unproven talent from North Dakota State and a strong-armed passer with accuracy issues from Cal. This type of quarterback landscape is why the Philadelphia Eagles gave $26 million to Sam Bradford.

The Ravens understand how hard it is to gain stability at the game's most important position. From the franchise's first year of existence in 1996 to 2007, Baltimore went through 15 quarterbacks, from Vinny Testaverde to Trent Dilfer to Kyle Boller to Troy Smith. Flacco is the most talented, the most durable and most clutch quarterback in team history, and it's not even close.

The bonus is getting desperately needed cap space. According to ESPN Roster Management System, the Ravens rank near the bottom of the league with $2.8 million in salary-cap space. The Flacco deal will allow Baltimore to absorb the franchise tag on kicker Justin Tucker ($4.5 million) and the second-round tender on restricted free agent Kamar Aiken ($2.5). The Ravens can now look to retain offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, the team's top free agent.

Lowering Flacco's hefty $28.55 million cap number is the immediate benefit for the Ravens. But holding on to him for an additional three years will prove out to be the bigger reward.