Flacco's performance triggers playing-time escalator

Updated: December 24, 2008, 3:28 PM ET
By James Walker | ESPN.com

As the Baltimore Ravens try to earn their first postseason berth since 2006, rookie quarterback Joe Flacco has already received a hefty Christmas bonus.

The rookie first-round pick recently earned an additional $3 million in bonuses from the Ravens based on his first-year performance with the team. Flacco recently eclipsed a huge playing-time escalator in his contract of participating in 80 percent of Baltimore's snaps as a rookie. He will have $750,000 added to his base salary in the remaining four years of his contract.

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Flacco signed an incentive-laden, five-year deal worth up to $30 million in July, but this was one clause few anticipated him earning. Baltimore's plan was to bring him along slowly and either play him later in the season or next year.

But preseason ailments to Kyle Boller (shoulder) and Troy Smith (viral infection) gave Flacco the starting quarterback job by attrition at the beginning of the year. He had been lagging behind as the third quarterback in training camp up until that point.

Yet Flacco performed well in winning his first two starts, cementing his status not only as the quarterback of the future, but the quarterback of the present. Flacco has started all 15 games and thrown for 2,674 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Flacco's play has placed Baltimore (10-5) one win shy of securing a wild-card playoff berth; the Ravens play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10).

Flacco also could earn $200,000 this year for each postseason victory.

James Walker covers the AFC North for ESPN.com.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter