OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It came down to the final minutes prior to the 4 p.m. deadline, but the Ravens and Ray Rice have come to terms on a five-year contract to keep the Pro Bowl running back in Baltimore for the foreseeable future.
Multiple outlets are reporting the deal is worth $40 million, paying him $17 million in the first year of the deal and $25 million over the first two seasons. The contract creates an estimated $2.7 million in cap space for the Ravens in 2012, according to Pro Football Talk.
“Ray has been an integral part of us earning the playoffs in each of his four seasons, and that includes helping us get to two AFC Championship games,” Newsome said. “His production on the field speaks for itself, and his leadership in the locker room is outstanding.”
Talks had progressed slowly between agent Todd France and the front office over the last few months, leading many to believe a long-term contract would not be reached by Monday. However, negotiations picked up over the final hour or two as vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty and France ironed out the details of the five-year contract.
Just a few minutes before the deadline, a happy Rice was spotted getting into his car and driving away from the team’s Owings Mills facility. He tweeted a message a few minutes later to Ravens fans.
“We knew we would be rewarded at some point,” said France, who told AM 1570 WNST that Rice was prepared to sit out training camp and even games if necessary. “This has been an ongoing thing.”
The $24 million in guaranteed money makes Rice the third highest paid running back in the NFL, behind only Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson ($36 million guaranteed) and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson ($30 million guaranteed).
Monday’s news also marks the second straight year in which the Ravens have reached a long-term agreement with their franchise player at the deadline. Last September, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata signed a five-year, $61 million contract after being designated with the franchise tag in February 2011.
Rice is coming off his best season in which he rushed for a career-high 1,364 yards and led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage. In 61 career games over his first four seasons, the two-time Pro Bowl back ranks second on both the franchise’s all-time rushing yards (4,377) and total scrimmage yards (6,612) lists.
The long-term contract for Rice also means the Ravens can shift their attention to quarterback Joe Flacco, who is entering the final year of his original rookie contract. If the running back hadn’t signed a multi-year contract, the Ravens may have found themselves in the uncomfortable position next offseason of being forced to franchise one player while allowing the other to potentially test free agency.
Monday’s news eliminates that nightmarish scenario and frees up the franchise tag to use on Flacco if a long-term deal is not reached between now and next offseason.
Rice repeatedly expressed his desire to remain in Baltimore over the last year as he has many community initiatives, including an anti-bullying event held last Friday. The long-term security provided by the Ravens allows Rice to give back even more over the next several years.
“I should say something about his community efforts; I think they are almost unmatched by any player in the NFL,” Newsome said. “You’d have a hard time finding a player who does more or is as serious about helping others as Ray is. He is one of those players you can proudly say, ‘He’s on our team.'”
Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear agent Todd France’s interview on AM 1570 WNST here.