Ravens, Rice face 4 p.m. deadline today for long-term deal

July 16, 2012 | Luke Jones

After months of speculation with little reported progress, the Ravens are down to their final hours to reach a long-term contract with Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice.

The sides have until 4 p.m. Monday or Rice will be forced to play for the $7.7 million franchise tag for the 2012 season. General manager Ozzie Newsome said in February one of the Ravens’ top goals of the offseason was to lock up the star running back for the foreseeable future, but talks have been quiet and slow with Rice’s agent Todd France.

If an agreement is not reached on Monday, the sides would not be able to implement a long-term contract until the 2013 season. Rice would not be obligated to report to training camp until he signs his franchise tender, meaning the Ravens could be without their No. 1 back for much of the preseason.

It will be interesting to see if either side bends with the final day upon us in the way that deadlines will make people blink. Last season, the Ravens and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata were far apart in negotiations before the Pro Bowl defensive lineman reached a five-year, $61 million contract minutes before the September deadline.

The biggest factor working in each side’s favor is that both the Ravens and Rice want to work out a new deal. The 25-year-old has repeatedly expressed his desire to remain in Baltimore for the long haul, and Newsome dispelled any notion earlier this offseason that the Ravens preferred allowing Rice to play under the tag for the next season or two to avoid a long-term financial commitment.

The Ravens could find themselves in a very difficult position over the next year if they are unable to come to terms with Rice. With quarterback Joe Flacco entering the final year of his contract, the Ravens would unquestionably use their franchise tag on Flacco next year if they cannot hammer out a new deal. This would potentially leave Rice to become an unrestricted free agent if the sides are still without a new deal.

Will the Ravens and Rice work something out this afternoon or will this story become even more interesting and potentially detrimental? Comment below to put your prediction on the record…