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Joe Flacco, Ravens reportedly will start contract talks

The Baltimore Ravens will take their first step in trying to keep impending free agent Joe Flacco away from the teams that reportedly have been clamoring for his services. According to a report Monday by SI.com's Peter King, Ravens chief negotiator Pat Moriarty will meet with Flacco's agent this week to jumpstart negotiations on a long-term contract.

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The Ravens' goal should be to avoid the franchise tag at all costs. King espouses a theory that the team might be confident enough to eschew the salary-cap prohibitive exclusive-rights tag, which could in turn entice a quarterback-needy team to front-load an offer the Ravens can't match.

It's a scenario that is hard to imagine after general manager Ozzie Newsome recently acknowledged the importance of a franchise quarterback to a football executive's success and job security. As Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff once said, "Until you find your quarterback, the search for him consumes you."

If contract talks hit a snag, the Ravens have until March 4 to utilize the exclusive-rights tag. Although that option will ensure no other team can negotiate with Flacco, the roughly $20 million guaranteed salary would play havoc with the 2013 salary cap.

If Flacco doesn't agree to a long-term deal that's cap friendly for the next couple of years, the implications are severe. It could mean losing free-agent pass rusher Paul Kruger, emerging inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, and/or future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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