By far the Ravens biggest concern this offseason is re-signing Ray Rice. I’m a Flacco fan, I was impressed with his play during the postseason and think he deserves an extension — not top five QB money — but Rice is the heartbeat of this team.
Right now, Rice sits atop the league as one of the top three running backs. At 25 years old, it’s hard to imagine a day in which defenses will begin to slow him down.
But it is going to happen. The harsh reality is that the Ravens probably have maybe three solid seasons left with Rice before we start to say a decline in his performance. Rice has rushed for over 1,200 yards in three straight seasons and is a pivotal part in the Ravens pass attack. He’s a different type of back.
But like Jamison Hensley at ESPN.com, I wouldn’t give him the seven-year, $100 million deal that the Minnesota Vikings gave Adrian Peterson. I tend to side with Tony Lombardi of Ravens24x7.com and think that Ozzie Newsome should use the franchise tag on Rice for not only 2012, but also in 2013.
After two seasons the Ravens can re-examine Rice and determine how much they think he has left in the league. Right now he’s at the highest level of his game and it wouldn’t be smart to pay him for what he’s done when you have the opportunity to pay him for what he’s going to do.
We’ll know their plans by March 5. That’s the deadline for the franchise tag.