Ray Rice, Matt Forte deals triumph over pre-draft hype


Matt Forte and Ray Rice came into the NFL as second-round draft picks because they weren't "explosive" enough. Their dueling monster contract extensions Monday were wins for running backs who display toughness, smarts and versatility over pre-draft hype about 40-yard dash times.

NFL.com and NFL Network's Albert Breer reported that Rice will earn $35 million during his five-year contract, with $40 million available with incentives. That's not bad for the seventh running back taken in the 2008 draft.

Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, Felix Jones, Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Johnson all were taken in the top-25 picks. Forte went No. 44 to the Chicago Bears and Rice went No. 55 to the Baltimore Ravens because their skill set isn't as "sexy" on paper. But they fit today's NFL perfectly.

Rice and Forte are both outstanding in the passing game. They understand passing concepts, and Forte especially can run routes like a receiver. Both players are excellent in pass protection. They make the right decisions. They don't create negative plays.

These are traits that don't always show up in pre-draft testing. And they are the traits that make Forte and Rice so valuable on every down.

A few other thoughts about Rice's deal before moving on:

1. The running back money continues to flow. Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times reports that Rice will get $17 million in the first year of his deal. There is $25 million in the first two years. The Ravens are counting on Rice sticking around for a long time because that is huge upfront money. Baltimore gets its value later in the deal.

2. It's all about the deadline. We wrote this morning that Rice's deal almost made too much sense not to happen. Just like Drew Brees. And so the deal got done. Remember that next April when similar situations play out. It all means very little until deadline time.

3. Three of the top four players on our "most likely to be signed" Monday rankings received deals. Not bad. Mike Nugent let us down.

4. The Ravens take care of their star players. The organization is among the very best at picking and rewarding their core players. There's no question Rice is a team leader. They also signed Haloti Ngata just before the franchise tag deadline last year. That reminds us ...

5. Joe Flacco and Ed Reed are set to be free agents next year. Rice's deal frees up the franchise tag to use on one of them.