OWINGS MILLS — No deal is imminent at this time between the Baltimore Ravens and Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice, the defending AFC North champions’ franchise player.
Assigned a one-year, $7.742 million tender, Rice stated this week that he has outplayed his rookie contract.
Although the Ravens aren’t close on a contract with Rice, they do agree with him saying that he deserves a new deal.
"That was a rookie contract, so, yes, I would like to think that every player with the Ravens that we draft, hopefully, outplays their first contract," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "So, yes, he has.”
And Newsome did express that he’s happy that progress is being made in the discussions between France and Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty.
"We’re happy with the progress that we’re making with negotiations," Newsome said. "But to say from where he was to where we put the franchise tag on him, that’s a significant increase.”
As an unsigned franchise player, Rice is not required to attend any offseason activities, training camp or even games.
Although Rice has said he would like to participate in minicamps and organized team activities, the reality is he’s not expected to show up without a new contract. Especially not until the July 16 NFL deadline to negotiate a long-term contract extension for franchise players.
If no deal is reached by that date, then Rice has to play this season under the franchise tag.
Past Ravens franchise players Terrell Suggs and Chris McAlister opted to skip offseason activities and even didn’t show up on time for training camp.
"Until a guy actually signs his franchise tender, he’s not under contract and we are not allowed to even ask him to come to our mandatory minicamp," Newsome said. "We understand those things. We’ve experienced that before and we’ll be prepared."
Meanwhile, the Ravens are approximately $1.75 million under the NFL salary cap limit without borrowing money from future years.
They don’t intend to mortgage the future.
"It’s not unique," Newsome said. "We’ve been here four or five other times I can recall. With us, the cap is very fluid. Teams do some things that we try not to do. We just don’t try to put everything into one year.
"We did one year, in 2001, and you saw what happened. We had to just turn the whole team over. But we tried to make the run to win two Super Bowls in a row. I think we learned from that."
Newsome insisted that the Ravens can still add players to the roster if they want to despite their tight salary-cap situation.
"Regardless of what the number we are at the cap, we have a plan," Newsome said. "We talk about the cap, basically, every day. If there’s a good player that can come in and help our football team, we’ll be able to fit him under our cap.”
The Ravens are looking to broker long-term deals with Rice, quarterback Joe Flacco and restricted free agent cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams.
“The reason is why we want to get the long-term deals done with those players is because we like them," Newsome said. "And we want them to be in Baltimore for a long time."
Webb and Williams have both been offered contracts by the Ravens.
"We are involved in negotiations with both," Newsome said. "And what the status is, I don’t know. Our restricted guys are guys that we would like to extend to longer-term deals.”