It’s getting to be serious “crunch time” for Ray Rice and
Rice, who was assigned the Franchise tag by the team earlier
this offseason, has until next Monday, July 16, to agree to a long-term deal
with the Ravens. If the two sides are unable to put pen to paper by then, Rice
will be forced to play the 2012 season under the tag.
It’s a bit of a mystery as to why the Ravens and Rice have
been unable to agree on a new contract, at least to us outsiders.
It would seem that the fair-market value has been set for
running backs this offseason. The Houston Texans resigned their running back –
and the player to whom Rice is most often compared these days – Arian Foster,
to a 5-year deal worth up to $43.5 million, with $20.75 million guaranteed.
In addition, LeSean McCoy of Philadelphia signed a 5-year
deal for $45 million, with $20.7 million guaranteed.
Now, I’m no sports agent or General Manager, but it would
seem to me that it’s pretty clear the two sides should be able to agree on
something along the lines of 5-years, $45 million, $21 million guaranteed.
Unfortunately, it has been rumored that Rice is eyeing a
contract more in line with those signed by Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson.
Peterson signed in September of 2011 for seven years and $96 million, while
Johnson, after holding out of training camp last year, signed for four years at
$53.5 million, with $30 million guaranteed.
Those two deals are worth roughly $13 million per year, as
opposed to those of McCoy and Foster, which come in at a more modest $8-9
Hurting the case of Rice (and likely Foster and McCoy before
him) is that both the Vikings and Titans are pretty much immediately regretting
those two deals. Johnson had the fewest yards and touchdowns of his four-year
career in 2011, and Peterson saw his season cut to just 12 games due to
And that’s not to mention the fact that putting so much
money in the running back position is likely to hamstring both of those clubs
financially in the coming years. Running backs are widely considered “a dime a
dozen,” and teams feel extremely fortunate to get more than even three or four
productive years out of their top runners.
Rice, of course, has already been in the league four years,
three of which have been extremely productive.
While I don’t mean to suggest that Rice is nearing the end
of his rope, the fact is that the statistics aren’t in his favor.
The Ravens know this, and that’s why those that cover the
team get the feeling that they have no problem slapping the franchise tag on
Rice in 2011 and 2012, and then letting him walk, if he forces their hand.
Rice isn’t going to get Peterson/Johnson money.
It’s in his best interest, financially, to “settle” for a
deal similar to those of Foster and McCoy. If he plays the 2012 season under
the tag, he risks not only an injury that could potentially deprive him of ever
getting another multi-year deal in his career, but also of playing 2013 with
the same cloud hanging over his head.
Of course, it’s in the Ravens’ best interest to sign him as
well. It was recently revealed that our beloved birds are dead last in the NFL
in salary cap space, at just about $600,000 under. Signing Rice would alleviate
that particular burden to some degree, while also giving them the flexibility
to look ahead to 2013, when they may be forced to “tag” Joe Flacco.
I’m not saying it would be good business to franchise Joe,
but it’s a trump card the Ravens would like to have in their back pocket during
The Ravens also put a bit of pressure on Rice and his camp
back in April, when they drafted Bernard Pierce out of Temple in the third
round of the NFL Draft. Pierce is a guy that possesses similar skills to those
of Rice, and he could potentially give the team even more leverage in these
contract talks – if not this year then definitely next, should he have a
productive 2012 as Rice’s backup.
The bottom line is that Ray Rice needs to sign on the dotted
line, and soon. While he holds some of the cards due to being the centerpiece
of the team’s offense over the past three seasons, the organization has been
taking steps to secure their own hand.
I want Ray Rice in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. So
do you. Let’s hope we hear news in the next six days that tells us that will
definitely be the case.