Don't worry, Ravens will pay plenty of dough to keep Rice

December 14, 2011|Kevin Cowherd

Let's see a show of hands: does anyone really think Ray Rice won't be a Raven next year?

Anyone really think the Ravens won't sign him to a long-term deal in the off-season? Anyone really think Ozzie Newsome will show Rice the door and say "Hey, little man, sorry it didn't work out" when his current contract expires?

Please.

The Ravens are going to pay the man. You know it. I know it. The American people know it. Even if the team slaps the franchise tag on their star running back, he'll still have a Brinks truck backing up to his house with sacks of cash for years.

Of course, a new contract is not exactly something Rice cares to discuss at the moment, due to the fact that:

a) The Ravens are a tad busy preparing for Sunday's primetime game against the San Diego Chargers, who suddenly have a pulse again and

b) With the Ravens on a roll and focused on getting home-field advantage for the playoffs, this is no time to be a me-guy. Which Rice definitely isn't in the first place.

"It's hard to think about it now — I'm being honest," he said Wednesday of a long-term deal. "I've had the ability to not even think about it because, no. 1, I respect my teammates. And I didn't want to bring my contract, my personal decisions, my life in ... to this locker room."

"I have enough respect for the organization to keep it that way," he continued. "And we're winning. If you love the game enough, you love winning and you appreciate it and live by it. If you take care of the game, the game will take care of you."

Translation: I've had four pretty good years here. Don't worry. I'll get mine.

The Ravens don't discuss contracts during the season, which is smart. Newsome, their general manager, will bite your head off if you bring up the topic. And Rice's agent, Todd France, isn't talking, either.

When I called, his secretary told me he wasn't available. Then after an interminable pause, she said: "Would you like Mr. France's voicemail?" Which is a polite way of saying: go pound sand.

But it doesn't matter if no one's talking. The Ravens are going to sign Rice. They have a history of signing their top draft choices. Rice was taken in the second round of the 2008 draft out of Rutgers. And all he's done since is become maybe the top all-around back in the NFL.

He's rushed for more than 1,000 yards the past three seasons, and there's no one better at catching the ball in the open field and making defenders miss. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2009, he's gained at least 100 total yards from scrimmage in 28 games.

Not only that, but with his friendly, open demeanor and tireless work with local schools and charities, he's emerged as one of the most popular Ravens — as well as a red-hot endorsement get for the corporate world.

(On the other hand, if I see one more of those M&T Bank commercials with Rice raising that stupid green flag, I'm going to lose it. Same goes for you, Mr. Haloti Ngata. )

The point is, rarely has a running back seemed so ideally suited for his team — and his city — as Ray Rice.

The Ravens would have to be nuts not to sign him in the off-season. And Rice sure doesn't sound like a guy who wants to pack his bags anytime soon.

"I mean, I don't think I'll be going anywhere," he said. "That I can almost assure. ... I love it here."

And the Ravens love having him. When I wandered around their locker room yesterday and asked how important it is to re-sign Rice, Jarret Johnson laughed and said, "Oh, c'mon."

Meaning: this one's a no-brainer.

"We play against elite backs every week — there's one on every team," the outside linebacker said. "But there are very few as special as Ray. Out of the backfield, the different things he does, the matchups he creates in the open space ... having a guy like that is invaluable. You gotta have him.

"We've got all the trust in the world in Ozzie. He's gonna do what has to be done."

What Ozzie's going to do is pay the man a lot of money.

And everyone knows the man deserves it.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "Norris and Davis Show."

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