Regardless of the timing and whether it is made official tomorrow or Monday, the move is a formality. Here are a couple of things to remember when it becomes official:
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Another piece of good news for Rice is that if a long-term extension isn’t reached before the deadline on July 16, he will be paid a salary of $7.7 million for the 2012 campaign, the projected salary number for running backs who get franchised. Rice made a base salary of $600,000 during his team-record breaking season in 2011 so obviously he is getting an enormous raise. But what he’s not getting – and it’s something that he clearly wants – is long-term security. The career span of an NFL running back isn’t very long so you can see why Rice would want a long-term commitment from the Ravens.
This is probably obvious, but I figured it was worth pointing out anyway. Teams are allowed to franchise only one player. So since Rice is the one, that means that left guard Ben Grubbs will hit the market and be able to sign with any team he pleases if the two sides cannot reach a deal by March 13, the day free agency starts. While you are only allowed to franchise one player per year, you are allowed to franchise that same player for consecutive years. So if Rice and the Ravens can’t reach an agreement on a long-term deal by July 16, we’re probably going to be talking about the same thing at this time next year.
And finally, one big question that this move spurs is whether Rice will hold out of training camp to protest the move. Only France and Rice can answer that and they’re not talking at this point. Rice knew this was coming so I can’t imagine this changes anything, at least for now. He is a total pro and he cares very much about his teammates and his perception among fans so I think an extended holdout would surprise some people. He’s also well aware of the type of season that Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson had after he sat out a chunk of training camp while immersed in a contract dispute. But I’m sure he also took heed of the potential career-threatening injury sustained by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, which could serve as Exhibit A as to why players, specifically running backs, crave long-term contract security so much.