The deadline to put the franchise tag on players is Monday, and Ravens running back Ray Rice knows it's just a matter of time before he receives it.
The Ravens and Rice's agent Todd France met at the NFL combine, but it's obvious that the sides won't be striking a deal this week. Rice, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, would get $7.7 million this season.
"We obviously know the tag is coming," France told the Annapolis (Md.) Capital. "But we will continue to have open dialogue and see if we can come to a long-term agreement, which is the preference for both sides."
While Rice is bracing for the tag this year, he might want to do so for next year, too.
The Ravens' history is to reach lucrative long-term agreements with players that have received the tag. That's what they did with linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and cornerback Chris McAlister.
But running back is a different situation. The Ravens have to be wary of giving a big contract to Rice after what happened to the last two running backs who signed big-money contracts. The Vikings' Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and MCL three months after signing his contract, and the Titans' Chris Johnson ran for a career-worst 1,047 yards after agreeing to his deal.
I'm not saying the Ravens shouldn't give a long-term deal to Rice. He's never had any major injuries since he joined the Ravens, and his work ethic suggests his production won't decline after getting his money. The Ravens just have to consider the costs involved.
Rice likely won't sign a multi-year deal that includes less than $30 million guaranteed (that's what Johnson received). If the Ravens use the franchise tag for two years, it would cost them about $17 million.
A good comparison for Rice is the career of LaDainian Tomlinson, who had seven straight seasons of 300-plus carries before his rushing yards dipped significantly. Rice, 25, has had three straight seasons of 250-plus carries, so you would have to expect at least four more strong seasons out of him.
Do you feel confident enough in Rice to give him $30-million plus in a long-term deal? Or do you play it safe and use the franchise tag on him for the next two years?