Rice, who would play the season under the $7.7-million franchise tag if a long-term extension isn’t reached before July 16, is not expected to be at the team’s mandatory veteran mini-camp which starts Tuesday and is a threat to hold out from next month’s training camp. Rice has not signed his franchise tender and thus cannot be disciplined for staying away from the team facility during workouts.
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Rice has made clear he feels he out-performed his rookie contractand deserves an extension. The Ravens, who watched Rice lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage and score 15 touchdowns last year, agree with him, but there remains the matter of finding common ground on the terms.
While there has been some speculation that the two-time Pro Bowler is looking for a deal similar to the seven-year, $100-million pact the Minnesota Vikings gave Adrian Peterson last September, Rice’s new deal is expected to fall more in line with the recent extensions given to the Houston Texans’ Arian Foster (five years, $43.5 million) and the Philadelphia Eagles’ LeSean McCoy (five-years, $45 million).
“Negotiations look like there is all this built up anger between the two sides, but the minute it gets done, everybody talks about how much we love Ray and how much Ray loves Baltimore,” Bisciotti said. “It’s his right as a free agent to say, ‘I want X’ and it’s our right as a team to look at the entire salary cap and say, ‘We’re not even saying you don’t deserve it, but this is the money we’ve got to allocate toward you and there’s a gap.’”
Speaking at cornerback Lardarius Webb’s charity softball game Sunday, Riceacknowledged that he missed the camaraderie of being with his teammates during the offseason workouts.
“I feel bad for him because he’s a classy young man and we are trying to reconcile,” Bisciotti said. “He’s one of the best young men that we’ve ever had and I know it’s killing him. He comes in and we haven’t skipped a beat. … He’s not going to come in without a new deal, I would think. I really don’t know. At some point he’s going to come in and sign the tender. He’s not sitting out.”
While Rice was eligible for free agency before getting the franchise tag this offseason, Flacco, taken in the same 2008 draft as the running back, has one more year left on his rookie deal. Bisciotti has said since last year that he doesn’t want the quarterback to have to play out his contract without a new deal. However, while Bisciotti said Flacco’s situation hasn’t taken a backburner to Rice, there hasn’t been much movement in the negotiations.
“I think it remains a possibility, absolutely,” said Bisciotti on the potential of a Flacco deal. “We’ve got Ray under the franchise tag so it has no bearing on us dealing with Joe. Joe is treating his last year like Ray treated his. If you go back, the nice thing is that Ray never talked about it. Everybody wanted to make it an issue last year for Ray Rice and Ray said, ‘I’m under contract. Maybe we’ll get something done before the season starts, maybe we’ll get something done within the season.’ Joe is handling himself with the same class … and we’re very appreciative of that but we expected that.”
Bisciotti said wasn’t worried about Flacco’s mindset if he was forced to start the season without a new contract. That, as of now, appears likely with the Ravens having so little salary cap space.
“There’s no rush,” Joe Linta, Flacco’s agent, said earlier this week. “Everybody is happy, nobody is upset. Unfortunately for [the media], there’s no acrimony. We’ll always talk, we’ll always converse. We’re here for them. Joe is happy with where he’s at right now.”
Bisciotti spoke to The Sun on a variety of Ravens’ related topics Friday following the unveiling of the team’s partnership with apparel and clothing company Under Armour. The 10-year deal includes community initiatives and the naming rights of the Ravens’ practice facility, which will now be called the Under Armour Performance Center.
Bisciotti said that he didn’t know whether linebacker Terrell Suggs tore his right Achilles tendon playing basketball or working out — Suggs has denied reports that it was the former — and he didn’t really care.
He also said that the speculation that the Ravens could withhold some of Suggs’ salary, which technically they’d be allowed to do because it was a non-football injury , was “nonsense” and would send a terrible message to the rest of the locker room. He later joked that he’d rather see Suggs get hurt on the basketball court than “sleeping on his couch all offseason.”
“This feeling that Ravens’ fans deserve to know, I don’t understand that,” Bisciotti said. “If they are playing at charity softball and basketball tournaments all winter long, I don’t understand why that matters … It’s not a restriction in his contract. As long as these guys are staying in shape, this away from the facility stuff is crazy. “
Bisciotti has said he has no issue with the fact that 19 players did not attend voluntary OTAs this week. In fact, he almost preferred the repetitions going to the younger players.
“I heard [San Francisco 49ers coach] Jim Harbaugh had perfect attendance and Washington had perfect attendance. I’ll be honest with you, at this stage of the offseason, I don’t want Bernard Pierce sitting on the sidelines while Ray Rice takes all the carries,” he said. “I don’t know what it does to help Ray Rice. This is called install and it’s called install for a reason because we’re installing the offense to kids who have never been in our offense. … Do I want Anquan Boldin taking 30 reps and taking them away from Tandon Doss and Tommy Streeter, and Jacoby Jones? It’s like no. That doesn’t bother me a bit.”
While saying that he doesn’t expect to see Rice at next week’s mini-camp, Bisciotti did say that he thinks Ed Reed will be there. The mercurial safety has caused a stir this offseason by discussing retirement and questioning his own readiness for the season.
““I haven’t had any communication with him, but sure I [expect him to be there],” Bisciotti said. “It’s all he’s ever done. I think Ed — and I have said this — has a firm grip of how happy he can be when he walks away from football. I think that’s why Ed is not as definitive as people would like. He seems to change opinions about stuff like that because he loves football as much as anybody who has ever played the game, but I think he’s got a firmer grasp of how good life can be without playing football. I think that’s a strength of his, but it also makes him maybe waffle more in the press.”