- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti sounded optimistic when talking about the negotiations for Ray Rice's extension.
He acknowledged to the Baltimore Sun on Friday that a gap still exists between the running back and the team but said "I think we’re close enough. I think we’re heading somewhere."
The sides have until July 16 to reach a deal. If the sides can agree before that deadline, Rice has to play under the $7.7 million franchise tender.
It was reported three weeks ago that there had been no progress in talks. Based on the contracts signed recently, there appears to be a $10 million gap between the two tiers of running backs.
Rice probably believes he deserves a contract closer to the one given to the Titans' Chris Johnson (six years with $30 million guaranteed). In fact, Rice has had more total yards over the past three years than Johnson.
But the Ravens are likely trying to get the money closer to the deals recently signed by Arian Foster (five years, $43.5 million with $20.75 million guaranteed) and LeSean McCoy (five-year, $45 million with $20.76 million guaranteed). Baltimore can argue that is now the market value for running backs.
"It’s his right as a free agent to say I want X and it’s our right as a team to look at the entire salary cap," Bisciotti told the Sun.
Bisciotti doesn't expect Rice to report to next week's mandatory minicamp unless a new deal is reached.
"He’s one of best young men that we’ve ever had and I know it’s killing him," Bisciotti told the Sun. "He comes in and we haven’t skipped a beat."
Bisciotti also shot down speculation that the negotiations with QB Joe Flacco have become secondary to Rice. He said both are priorities for the team.
7hEric D. Williams