The Ravens' Ray Rice is the top running back in this free-agent class. He's among the top three or four running backs in the NFL today.
But Rice is no Adrian Peterson and he shouldn't be seeking the seven-year, $100 million deal (including $36 million guaranteed) given to the Minnesota Vikings running back. If the SI.com report is accurate that Rice wants Peterson-type money, Rice will be disappointed because the Ravens won't be giving him anything close to that.
The Ravens will almost certainly place the franchise tag on Rice this year for $7.7 million, which is really a bargain when you consider Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson will get $8.8 million under the tag. In fact, the Ravens would probably prefer to use the tag on Rice for two years (which would cost them an estimated total of $17 million) before giving him a Peterson-type deal.
I'm not trying to slight Rice because he was the most valuable player in the AFC North last season. Over the past two seasons (including playoffs), the Ravens are 21-2 (.913) when Rice gets at least 20 touches. Rice also produced an NFL-best 2,068 total yards and set a team record with 15 touchdowns. He became the second player in NFL history to produce multiple seasons of 1,000 yards rushing and 700 yards receiving (Marshall Faulk was the other). Basically, Rice is really, really good.
But the Ravens are more willing to invest a long-term deal in Joe Flacco than Rice because NFL running backs haven't proven to be durable. The more realistic deal that Rice should be targeting is the one given to the Titans' Chris Johnson, who reportedly signed for $53.5 million over four years.
The Ravens' free agents are setting their sights high this offseason. It was last week when agent Joe Linta said Flacco has to be considered a top-five quarterback based on wins. Today, it's Rice wanting Peterson-type money. Who's next? Ben Grubbs?
There's no question that the Ravens want to keep Rice, who turned 25 in January. They're just not going to overpay to do so.