Joe Linta was on an airplane Friday evening when the news broke: His star client, Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco, agreed to a six-year, $120.6 million contract that is the largest in NFL history.
Yes, they have agreed to a deal in principle, Linta confirmed to USA TODAY Sports on Saturday afternoon. Details of the contract, such as the guaranteed money and up-front cash, remain undisclosed.
Linta said there's a good reason for that. Flacco still must officially sign off on the deal, which isn't expected to occur until Monday at the Ravens' headquarters. This weekend Linta will meet with Flacco and his father to review the contract offer that the agent said Saturday afternoon he was still waiting to receive.
Barring a last-minute snag, Flacco's deal will average $20.1 million per year, surpassing the $20 million average New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees received with the five-year, $100 million contract struck last summer.
"It was reflective of the past, the present and what the expectation is going forward," Linta said of Flacco's contract. "I don't want him to be in a situation three or four years from now thinking, 'I'm underpaid.' "
The agent agrees with the Ravens' official contention that the parameters are in place, and the deal is pending final details which includes one key signature.
On Friday night, as he studied videotape of draft prospects in his office, Ravens coach John Harbaugh sounded relieved. By not using the franchise tag to prevent Flacco from becoming a free agent, the Ravens can pursue other offseason moves without any uncertainty regarding their franchise quarterback.
The No. 1 offseason priority is essentially completed.
"I've been hoping all along that it would get done," Harbaugh told USA TODAY Sports. "I've been very confident that it would get done soon. I knew we were working at it and we were close. I'm excited."
Linta doesn't expect the deal will fall apart, given the Ravens agreed to Flacco's final proposal and the team is pressed to complete the transaction before Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline to designate franchise players.
Still, Linta said that Thursday night he told Flacco to brace himself for a franchise tag.
A phone call with the Ravens that lasted between five and 10 minutes Friday, when Linta traveled to Texas for a client's wedding, changed that.
The Ravens accepted Flacco's proposal.
"It's nice to be right," Linta said. "Everybody laughed about it when I said he's a top-five guy. When I said he should be the highest-paid player in the NFL, they thought I was a jackass. Hey, I do my job."
Linta isn't one of the NFL's highest-profiled agents, such as Tom Condon, Ben Dogra, Drew Rosenhaus or Eugene Parker. But with about 40 clients, the former Yale defensive tackle has been in the business for 20 years. Linta, who coaches high school football in Connecticut, prides himself on evaluating clients and prospective clients by studying film.
Now, his name is attached to a historical contract for a player whom many derided as an average talent. Flacco's journey has undoubtedly changed perceptions and soon he'll have the paychecks that mark the change in his financial status.
Playing out the final year of his rookie contract, which averaged $4.76 million, Flacco had a base salary of $6.76 million in 2012.
"The football people know," Linta said. "The people who criticized him are the guys who can't identify (the) cover 2 (defense) if you spot them the two safeties."
Linta recalled recruiting Flacco when he came out of Delaware of the former Division I-AA in 2008. He told Flacco that before his senior year, NFL scouts had given him a seventh-round grade.
"I told him, 'You're going to get drafted a lot higher,' " Linta said.
"He said, 'sure,' " Linta recalled. "He thought I was one big, Mr. Sleazy Agent. But when I told him that, it was based on film study. I'm not a good liar."
Linta thought the Ravens would re-sign Flacco in August, but the quarterback rejected the team's final offer while seeking a larger payday.
"I'm not as much of a gambler as he is," Linta said. "He wanted to bet on himself."
In the end, Flacco has definitely hit the jackpot.