PLEASE NOTE: The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
Ray Rice said over and over that he didn’t plan on leaving Baltimore this offseason.
Now, it appears that plan will come true.
The Ravens applied the franchise tag to Rice on Friday, which will keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent and pay him about $7.7 million as part of the one-year deal. His four-year rookie contract was set to expire in March.
“As we have in the past, placing the franchise designation on a player allows us to keep negotiating on a long-term contract,” Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. “Our goal is to keep Ray Rice a Raven. We’ve done this with other outstanding players through our history, including Haloti Ngata a year ago.”
Franchising Rice guarantees that he’ll be back in Baltimore for at least one more season, but more importantly, it buys time for the two sides to work out a long-term deal before the start of the season.
That’s what the Ravens did last year with Ngata. They franchised Ngata to keep him from hitting the open market and then agreed on an extension in September.
The same could happen with Rice, who said he ultimately wants a long-term deal and understands the franchise tag is a tool that can help make that happen.
The fifth-year running back is coming off the best season of his career, where he rushed for 1,364 yards and collected a league leading 2,068 yards from scrimmage. He was selected to his second Pro Bowl and accounted for 16 touchdowns – 12 rushing, three receiving and one throwing.
Locking up Rice is one of the Ravens’ top offseason priorities, as he took on more of a leadership role last year and was one of the team’s top weapons. He has proved to be an elite running back in the NFL, averaging 1,962 total yards in his three seasons as the Ravens starter.
Baltimore is also involved in contract extension talks with quarterback Joe Flacco, who has one year remaining on his rookie deal. Since Rice and Flacco entered the league as the Ravens first two picks in 2008, the Ravens are 44-20 in the regular season and have won at least one playoff game in each of their four seasons.
Having both of them back allows the Ravens to keep together their offensive core, which finished fourth in the AFC in scoring.