Ray Rice might not be in the building, but some progress has been made in contract talks

Optimism remains that deal gets done before July 16 deadline

May 21, 2012|By Jeff Zrebiec

For the next three weeks, the Ravens will have three-day, organized team activities that will undoubtedly attract many of the team’s veteran players along with the rookie class.

Ray Rice, the Ravens’ star running back who has stayed away from the team’s facility this offseason as his agent attempts to secure a contract extension for him, is not expected to be there, but that should not be taken as a sign that the negotiations are going poorly.

While no deal is imminent and there remains plenty of work to do, there has been some progress in the contract talks in recent weeks between Rice’s agent, Todd France, and the Ravens, according to sources familiar with the talks.

The Ravens have until the afternoon of July 16 to sign Rice to an extension or the two-time, Pro-Bowl running back will play the season under the $7.7 million franchise tag. The hope remains that the two sides will come to an agreement with time to spare, perhaps even before the mandatory veteran minicamp from June 12-14, or if not, shortly thereafter.

Again, as I mentioned above, there are still things that need to get worked out, and by no means do these potentially difficult negotiations appear to be nearing a conclusion. However, the positives are that both sides are talking regularly and seem motivated to get a deal done rather than waiting until close to the July 16 deadline to get serious. There also seems to be a lot more optimism from both sides than there was earlier this offseason, which is a good sign as well.

They also got a possible template for Rice’s deal when Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy agreed to a five-year, $45 million extension last week that includes nearly $21 million in guaranteed money. McCoy is two years younger than Rice and was one season away from free agency, so there are some differences. But there are plenty of parallels to be drawn as well, both with McCoy’s new deal and the pact signed by Houston Texans running back Arian Foster earlier this offseason.

Rice, who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage last season, has spent a lot of time in the area in recent weeks, devoting hours and energy to various causes. Unlike wide receiver Wes Welker, who has given occasional updates on the status of his talks and reportedly annoyed New England Patriots officials while doing so, Rice has opted to remain mostly mum on his negotiations.

However, he has vowed to stay in great shape despite not taking part in the workouts, which he normally attends in the offseason. While the Ravens would certainly like to hammer out a deal to secure and appease their top offensive weapon and to eliminate any potential distractions once training camp begins in late July, they have the utmost confidence that Rice will maintain his conditioning and be ready to go once he reports.

They are hoping that day won't be too far down the road.  

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