By Simon Evans
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Joe Flacco heads into new contract negotiations with the Baltimore Ravens in the strongest position of all - as a Super Bowl winner.
Flacco has just completed the last of his five-year rookie deal with the Ravens but, after leading his team to victory over the San Francisco 49ers, says he expects a new deal to be reached.
"I'm pretty optimistic but who knows? There are all kinds of crazy things that can happen with these contracts that we have all seen before but this is a great organization," he told a news conference on Monday.
"I love being in Baltimore, a great city, so I don't really anticipate any problems."
Under National Football League rules, if a new long-term deal is not struck with the quarterback, the Ravens could secure Flacco for an additional year by placing a franchise tag on him. That is reported to be around $14.6 million for the season or around $20 million for an "exclusive" tag which would stop teams from bidding for his services.
But Flacco's outstanding post-season form makes it hard to imagine the Ravens ownership would not come up with a long term contract and probably one which would make him among the best paid in the league.
Flacco passed for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdown in the four playoff games without an interception and also equaled the league record of 11 touchdowns in a single post-season, held jointly by Joe Montana and Kurt Warner.
After Sunday's game, in which he completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns, the mild-mannered Flacco joked that he would be aggressive with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.
"He did let me know that if this day came, I could go beat on his desk and really put it to him. So that's exactly what I'm going to do," Flacco said amid the post-game celebrations.
On Monday, he said he did not expect to be banging on the desk.
"We had some really good talks over the last few months and it is just nice to go in and have conversations with him, whatever they may be. I was just kind of making a little joke," he said.
Certainly Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is expecting to see his quarterback back in a purple and white uniform next season and fired up for more success.
"He'll be going to work just like if we had lost this game. He'll be just as motivated and determined. That's one of the things that makes him great," said Harbaugh.
The Ravens coach also hopes that veteran safety Ed Reed will reach agreement on a new deal. The 34-year-old is currently heading into free agency.
"We had that conversation on the bus ride away from the stadium actually," Harbaugh said. "He and I both agreed that we want him back and Ed wants to come back. Like Joe says, you never know how these things are going to work out but we are going to work like crazy to work it out."
(Reporting By Simon Evans, Editing by Gene Cherry)