Ravens appear to be bracing for potential Rice holdout

April 04, 2012 | Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice said he outplayed his rookie contract, general manager Ozzie Newsome was asked about his franchise player’s statement at the Ravens’ pre-draft luncheon in Owings Mills on Wednesday.

And there was no disagreement.

“That was a rookie contract, so yes,” Newsome said. “I’d like to think that every player with the Ravens that we draft hopefully outplays their first contract.”

By placing the franchise tag on Rice in early March, the Ravens prohibited him from becoming an unrestricted free agent and ensured he would remain in Baltimore for the 2012 season.

Reports indicate Rice does not plan to report for the start of the team’s offseason workout program in less than two weeks and may hold out during minicamp without a new deal in place. Rice would not face any disciplinary action should he decide to skip organized team activities or the preseason.

The slow pace of negotiations and Rice’s comments make it easy to conclude the Ravens are preparing for a holdout from their most dynamic offensive player.

“That’s something we talk about when we put the tag on him,” Newsome said. “What are the consequences and what are the unknown consequences that could happen? Up until a guy actually signs his franchise tender, he’s not under contract and we’re not allowed to ask him to come to our mandatory minicamp. We understand those things. … We’ve experienced that before.

“We’ll be prepared, and I think Steve [Bisciotti] made a great statement that I read. Whenever Ray shows up, he’ll be ready to play. There’s no doubt in our mind.”

With running backs Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster signing long-term extensions with their respective teams earlier this offseason, there was optimism that the parameters for a new Rice contract were falling into place. However, it appears Rice and agent Todd France are still looking for dollars more closely resembling the lucrative deals signed by Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson over the last two years.

The Ravens and Rice have a July 15 deadline to reach an agreement on a long-term deal before the running back is required to play for the $7.7 million franchise tender for the 2012 season. A new contract would not only lock up the two-time Pro Bowl back for the foreseeable future, but it would likely create $2-$3 million of salary cap room — something the Ravens could use this offseason.

“We’re happy with the progress that we’re making with negotiations,” Newsome said. “To say that from where he was to where we’ve put the franchise tag on him, that’s a significant increase.”

Newsome not biting on Reed

In what’s become virtually an annual occurrence, Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed raised a few eyebrows recently with some cryptic comments regarding his future and a continued desire for a new contract.

Talking out of both sides of his mouth, Reed has expressed the possibility of playing another four to five years at one point while also failing to make a definitive statement that he will return in 2012. It’s all just par for the course with the future Hall of Fame free safety.

“I have not had a conversation with Ed since our last game to be honest,” Newsome said. “As of right now, whoever we play in that first game this year, I anticipate Ed Reed being our starting free safety. That’s as much information as I have at this point.”

The 33-year-old Reed has one year remaining on his current contract and carries a $7.2 million base salary this season.

Cornerback contracts in works?

The Ravens are in negotiations with cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams in hopes of reaching long-term extensions with each, according to Newsome. Both players are restricted free agents, with Webb having received the first-round tender and Williams getting the second-round tender in March.

There has been plenty of talk that teams could pursue Webb — and would be willing to part with a first-round pick to sign him — but no signs point to the Ravens being in danger of losing the fourth-year cornerback.

“We are involved in negotiations with both,” Newsome said. “What the status is, I don’t know. I haven’t seen [vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty] today. I only saw him once, but our restricted guys are guys that we would like to extend to longer-term deals.”

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is also a restricted free agent and was given the second-round tender as well.

 Ravens fine with Flacco’s proclamation

Unsurprisingly, the first question leading off the pre-draft press conference related to quarterback Joe Flacco’s comments to WNST.net earlier this week in which he stated his opinion that he’s the best quarterback in the NFL.

Newsome repeated the general sentiment that many have expressed in defending the quarterback for simply sharing the confidence he has in himself. However, the Baltimore general manager was quick to point out how Flacco will need to back up his words with his preparation and play on the field.

“I don’t think any player, any coach, any [general manager] does not think that they are the best at what they do,” Newsome said. “And, for Joe to say that, I think it’s a common thing. The aspect of it that I think we also look at that if you make a statement like that, then you also have to prepare yourself to be the best. I’m sure that Joe is also doing that.”

Listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of the pre-draft press conference in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.