Ravens pleased with contract talks involving Ray Rice

A day after Ray Rice broke the silence about his contract status by saying he had outplayed his rookie deal, Ravens general manger Ozzie Newsome agreed with the Pro Bowl running back and indicated that he is happy with the progress the organization has made in long-term contract talks with Todd France, the agent for Rice.

But Newsome said Wednesday at the team’s annual draft luncheon that a potential holdout is something that he and other team officials always discuss before designated a player as their franchise player, including Rice.

“We’ve experienced that before,” he said, referencing previous holdouts by Chris McAlister and Terrell Suggs.

Rice told reporters Tuesday that he hopes to attend the team’s offseason workouts, but said he hasn’t made up his mind about whether he would attend. The team placed the franchise tag on Rice a month ago, but he has not signed the $7.7 million franchise tender. Until he does, he has no obligation to attend offseason workouts.

The Ravens have until July 16 to work out a long-term deal with the 25-year-old running back. If not, Rice will play the 2012 season under a one-year guaranteed contract that pays him $7.7 million, which as Newsome pointed out is “a significant increase” from the annual salary Rice earned his initial four-year rookie contract.

“I’d like to think that every player with the Ravens that we draft hopefully outplays their contract, so yes he has,” Newsome said when asked for his reaction to Rice’s comments about outplaying his previous contract.

Newsome expressed confidence that if Rice were to skip offseason workouts, he would stay in football shape.

According to Newsome, the Ravens remain in ongoing contract discussions with the representatives for Rice, quarterback Joe Flacco and cornerbacks (and restricted free agents) Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams. They appear to be making progress with Webb, in particular, but Newsome didn’t say how close they were to a deal.

“What the status is, I don’t know,” Newsome said. “I haven’t seen Pat [Moriarty, the team's vice president of football administration] today.”

Signing one or more of those four players to an extension could free up salary cap space for the Ravens, who are reportedly less than $2 million under the cap ceiling. Newsome said that it isn’t unique that the Ravens are so tight to the salary cap. “We’ve been here four or five other times that I can recall,” Newsome said. He added that “if there’s a good player that can come in and help our football team, we’ll be able to fit them under our cap.” That’s why nearly a month into free agency, they appear to be in no huge rush to get a deal or deals done.

“The reason is why we want to get the long-term deals done with those players is because we like them and we want them to be in Baltimore for a long time,” he said, referring to Rice, Flacco and the two cornerbacks.

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