Will Foster's new contract set the table for Rice?

The Houston Texans have reportedly agreed to a contract extension with running back Arian Foster, a deal that will surely be discussed in the ongoing contract negotiations between the Ravens and running back Ray Rice. Both are 25, Pro Bowl players and key offensive contributors on teams that won their divisions in 2011.

According to ESPN, Foster’s new five-year deal is worth $43.5 million with $20.75 million guaranteed. ESPN is reporting that Foster will make $18 million during the 2012 season and $30 million in first three years of deal.

Foster, who was a restricted free agent, had statistics in the past two seasons that are very similar to Rice’s.

In 29 regular season games the past two seasons (he sat out three in 2011), Foster rushed for 2,840 yards while averaging 4.7 yards per carry. In 32 games during that span, Rice ran for 2,584 yards while averaging 4.3 yards a carry. Foster had 119 receptions for 1,221 yards while Rice had 139 receptions for 1,260 yards.

Foster scored 30 total touchdowns (26 rushing and four receiving), nine more than Rice, who had 21 (17 rushing and four receiving).

For what it's worth, Foster collected 33.5 percent of Houston’s yards from scrimmage. Rice piled up 36.3 percent of Baltimore’s.

Those similar numbers on the field could yield similar numbers in terms of contract value for Rice, who was designated as the Ravens’ franchise player Friday and will make $7.7 million in 2012 if he plays under the tag. When it comes to negotiating contracts, comparables are key, and there isn’t one more apt than Foster, who is also a dual-threat running back in the prime of his career. Foster's contract gives Rice's agent, Todd France, and the Ravens parameters to work around at the negotiating table this offseason.

Of course, if Rice really is after Adrian Peterson-type money (Peterson got $100 million over seven years with $36 million guaranteed) as Sports Illustrated’s Peter King claimed, Foster’s new deal is bad news for Rice. But publicly, France has stated that it will just take a fair deal to keep Rice a Raven long-term.

"We are going to continue to have open dialogue and an amicable negotiation process with the Ravens in an effort to lock Ray up to a long-term contract that compensates him relative to his highly successful achievements on the field as well as all of his intangibles that don't show up on the stat sheet,” he said Friday.

The Ravens have also made it clear that they want to lock Rice up, which is why the franchise tag came into play. “Our goal is to keep Ray Rice a Raven,” general manger Ozzie Newsome stated Friday. And you have to figure the Ravens will try to keep him here with a payday that is very similar to the one Foster got with the Texans. Sure, the contract length and terms may be a little different, but it will set the bar for Rice’s contract, whether Rice likes it or not.

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