With word trickling out earlier this week that Ray Rice is looking for Adrian Peterson money in his new contract, speculation has run rampant whether the Ravens should sign the Pro Bowl running back to a long-term deal or simply allow him to play with the franchise tag over the next season or two.
General manager Ozzie Newsome put the latter notion to rest on Friday, insisting the Ravens will use the franchise tag on the 25-year-old only if they cannot reach a long-term agreement and with every intention to keep him in Baltimore for the years to come.
“We have used the franchise tag [in the past] only so we can get a long-term deal,” Newsome said at the NFL rookie combine in Indianapolis. “We would like for Ray Rice to have a long career in Baltimore. If we have to franchise him, that would be the reason why.”
Rice and agent Todd France are rumored to be seeking a deal comparable to the seven-year, $100 million contract the Minnesota Vikings signed Peterson to last season. The deal also included $36 million guaranteed. If the Ravens designate Rice with the franchise tag, he would make $7.7 million in 2012 if the sides cannot agree to a long-term agreement.
Assuming a contract is not signed by the March 5 deadline for teams to use the franchise tag, long-term contract negotiations with Rice will likely take a back seat as Newsome and the Ravens dive into the free-agent market on March 13. However, the suggestion that the Ravens would force Rice to play with the franchise tag in 2012 and potentially use the tag again next season (when his salary would increase by 120 percent to $9.25 million) can be squashed — at least for now.
Talks for new deals for Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco — who has one year remaining on his rookie contract — will likely drag deep into the off-season, but the Ravens are fully confident that each will remain cornerstones of the franchise in the years to come.
“The reality of it is those [deals] are going to take a little longer,” coach John Harbaugh said in Indianapolis on Friday. “We’re going to have a lot of contract conversations and different guys we’ll be talking to and even trying to get signed. Maybe even the draft will happen. Those guys will kind of overarch that whole process.
“Ultimately, I think we all believe that those two guys will be on the team for a long time.”