No one in Baltimore is seriously entertaining the notion that Joe Flacco won’t be back as the Ravens quarterback, even though he and the club have yet to work out a new contract. However, Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk has floated a scenario under which the Ravens would be practically forced to do so.

His article fudges a good bit on specifics, but Florio essentially is putting forth the idea that a team with a lot of room under the salary cap — and he mentions only the Browns — could make a pre-emptive strike if the Ravens didn’t offer Flacco an exclusive franchise tag of $20 million for 2013. The problem with the franchise tag for the Ravens is having to take such a huge hit for the salary cap in 2013, when they don’t have a lot of room to maneuver.

What would happen if the Ravens didn’t lock up Flacco under the franchise tag? Here’s Florio’s speculation machine churning:

“So with the Ravens in more than a bit of a cap mess and with teams like the Browns having more than $40 million in spending space for 2013 … a team like the Browns could fashion a front-loaded deal with, say, a $40 million 2013 roster bonus that the Ravens could never be able to match without cutting half the players under contract and signing no one in free agency.”

And as for having to give up two first-round draft picks for signing Flacco, Pro Football Talk says, “Some teams already were contemplating the possibility” before the playoffs even started and Flacco established himself as an elite postseason quarterback.