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Thursday, September 22, 2011
Locking up offense is next for Ravens

By Jamison Hensley

Now that the Baltimore Ravens have secured defensive tackle Haloti Ngata for the long term, the priority will shift to the offense.

Starting running back Ray Rice and left guard Ben Grubbs are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Plus, the Ravens are expected to begin talks with quarterback Joe Flacco on a contract extension this offseason.

Rice could be looking to come close to the contract recently signed by Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (four-year, $53.5 million extension with $30 million guaranteed). Rice's average yards from scrimmage per game (119.5) is second only to Johnson (124.5) since the start of the 2009 season.

The Ravens might use the franchise tag on Rice to keep him from becoming a free agent.

It'll be interesting to see what the Ravens do with Grubbs. Baltimore already invested a big contract ($32 million over five years) this summer on the other starting guard, Marshal Yanda.

As far as Flacco, he voiced his displeasure this offseason when owner Steve Bisciotti said the team decided to wait a year before beginning talks on a new contract. Look for the Ravens to lock up the quarterback next year.