Signing Rice: Not at a discount

July 07, 2012 | James Finn

When I woke this morning, and checked my inbox for my morning paper, I noticed I had several spam-ish messages from several opt-in providers (Groupon, Living Social, etc) trying to sell me discount deals.  I checked, and among the discounts for restaurants, spa services, wine tasting tours, and budget hotels, I did not find a 50% off deal for a Franchise tagged Pro-Bowl running-back.

Long and short of it all, Signing Ray Rice to a long term deal is an important topic on every Ravens fans mind.  Sure, there are many other team concerns (Suggs injury, Ed Reed “retirement”, Tom Brady’s perfect hair), but this seems paramount.  As the July 16th deadline to sign franchised players inches ever closer, the purple faithful are getting restless.  Signing #27 before this deadline will free up cap room the team needs to procure other players.  Ravens are currently dead last in available cap space with $607k.  They’ll need cap room once training camp begins, right now, it’s not exactly an emergency.

Rice produced more yards from scrimmage last year then anyone else.  This, despite the fact Cam Cameron seems to forget to call his number (Reminder, he had 4 games last season where, although healthy, had 10 or less carries).

And a player of his caliber is not going to come at a discount.  If the Ravens want him around, they’ll have to pony up the bucks.

Rice has been quiet about his contract situation this off-season, and has been noticeably absent from team workouts and practices.   Rice is confident a deal will get done, and in interviews, hasn’t used verbiage that would indicate he doesn’t intend to be a Raven this season.  It has to be a little unsettling when he sees his peers (LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster) getting 5 year deals around $45 Million.  Anybody could see this is a template for a player with a nearly identical skill set, experience, and prodction.   Rice’s agent is surely using this as a negotiating tactic.

Sure, it sounds easy. However,  The Ravens have a history of getting things done at the 11th hour.  Last year, for example, Haloti Ngata started the season playing under the Franchise tag.  Once a long term deal had finally been negotiated, Ngata saw his 2011 earnings double, because of the signing bonus.  Equally important, it freed up cap room for the club.

In the end, Rice will be locked in.  He’ll probably miss a bit of pre-season, giving Allen, Berry, and Pierce a chance to showcase their talents as they jockey for the number 2 spot.  Rice will come in, with that long term deal, in shape, motivated, and ready to go Week 1.

Then and only then, can we worry about locking Joe Flacco in for the long term deal he’s earned.  Until then, I’ll continue to check my inbox. The “Pig of the Month” club looks more and more attractive every day.