Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has not yet signed his franchise tender and isn't expected to attend the start of the team's OTAs on Tuesday, but there has been progress in talks towards a multi-year contract, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun reports.
Rice led the NFL in yards from scrimmage last season and is currently scheduled to earn $7.742 million in base salary under the franchise tag.
Zrebiec cautions that no deal is imminent and plenty of work remains to be done. That the two sides are "talking regularly" nearly two months before the deadline to reach a multi-year extension is piece of good news for a Ravens team that could use some after recently losing Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs for all or part of the upcoming season to a torn Achilles.
In terms of "new money," the floor of a Rice deal could have been established with last week's five-year, $45-million extension for Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. The $9 million per year in new money for McCoy is $1.189 million less than the new money in Arian Foster's four-year, $40.758-million extension with the Houston Texans. It's also well short of the $13.4 million to $14.2 million per year deals that Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson signed before the start of the 2011 season.
Rice's agent, Todd France, is likely seeking to top the $20.75 million (Foster) and $20.765 million (McCoy) received in guaranteed money and negotiating off the franchise tag and the $17.032 million it would cost the Ravens to use it twice on Rice should help. Foster and McCoy were able to secure over $20 million in guarantees despite being under club control for 2012 (restricted free-agent tender for Foster, final year of rookie contract for McCoy) and 2013 (franchise tag worth a projected $7.8 million).
Another issue to be hashed out is the cash payout over the first three years. McCoy will earn $20.365 million, while Foster will receive $30 million, Johnson $31 million and Peterson $40 million. Rice's camp will certainly want that number to be at or above the Foster/Johnson level.