Ravens Update

Ray Rice climbed into his white Mercedes and drove out of the Baltimore Ravens' parking lot Monday afternoon to celebrate after signing his five-year, $40 million maximum value contract that includes a $15 million signing bonus.

It was an emotional moment for the All-Pro running back after a compromise was reached to avoid playing the entire season under the franchise tag, narrowly beating an NFL deadline of 4 p.m. by roughly 10 minutes.

Now, Rice is due $17 million in his first year with a $2 million base salary and $25 million to be paid in the first two years. That includes a $7 million option bonus next year and a $1 million base salary.

The deal includes a $5 million escalator clause. "Ray deserves it," Ravens fullback Vonta Leach said during a telephone interview with the Times. "It's a real positive thing." By locking up Rice, 25, for the next five years, the Ravens have secured the dynamic centerpiece of their punishing running game.

They also avoided a potentially sticky situation where Rice could have skipped training camp and even games if a long-term deal hadn't been worked out.

The Chicago Bears signed franchise running back Matt Forte to a four-year, $32 million deal hours before Rice struck his deal. "Baltimore I'm back," Rice wrote on his Twitter account. "I never left."

Rice has already been selected to two Pro Bowls in four seasons, piling up 4,377 career rushing yards and 250 receptions for 2,235 receiving yards.

No running back has had more receptions and receiving yards since he entered the league in 2008 after his consensus All-American collegiate career. He ranks ahead of Forte and New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles, making him arguably the top all-purpose back in the league. "This is another example of Steve Bisciotti's commitment to the team and to our fans to retain our core players," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Ray has been an integral part of us earning the playoffs in each of his four seasons, and that includes helping us get to two AFC championship games. His production on the field speaks for itself, and his leadership in the locker room is outstanding." Rice and his agent, Todd France, finalized the deal after a last round of negotiations with Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty.

For Moriarty, this marks the second year in a row where he's signed a franchise player to a long-term deal at the last minute after signing All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to a five-year, $61 million deal last fall. The Ravens have a history of signing their franchise players, including a seven-year, $55 million contract for former cornerback Chris McAlister eight years ago.

Rice's newly-minted contract falls below recent running back deals for Arian Foster (five years, $43.5 million, $20.8 million guaranteed), LeSean McCoy (five year, $45.6 million, $20.8 million guaranteed), Chris Johnson (four years, $53.5 million, $30 million guarantee) and Adrian Peterson (seven years, $100 million, $36 million guaranteed).

His contract operates as essentially a three-year arrangement, though, and it's a compromise where Rice chose long-term financial security rather than risk potentially getting hurt while playing under a one-year franchise tender.

Rice was originally due a $7.742 million franchise tender for this season, but now carries a $5 million salary-cap figure. The salary-cap strapped Ravens were $606,858 under the NFL salary-cap limit for the least cap space in the NFL, but now have $3.381 million available. By signing Rice now, the Ravens won't have to deal with the potential dilemma next offseason of having their star running back and quarterback Joe Flacco be unrestricted free agents at the same time.

Ranked second in rushing yards franchise history behind Jamal Lewis, who'll be joining the Ravens' Ring of Honor this fall, Rice gained a career-high 1,364 yards on the ground last season. He also led the NFL with 2,068 total yards from scrimmage.

Last season, the former Rutgers star also set the Ravens franchise single-season record with a total of 16 touchdowns with a dozen rushing, three receiving and one touchdown pass. "He does everything," former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann said. "That's what makes Ray Rice so unique. I liken him to a more versatile Emmitt Smith."

Rice also registered a team-high 76 receptions for 704 yards and three touchdowns last season. "Ray Rice is a borderline superstar," former NFL quarterback Phil Simms said. "What does he mean to the team? It's priceless. He's been a terrific pro football player. I thought he would be good, but he's even better than I thought he was." And Rice has been heavily involved in good works off the field, including an anti-bullying event last Friday in Columbia.

"I should say something about his community efforts, I think they are almost unmatched by any player in the NFL," Newsome said. "You'd have a hard time finding a player who does more or is as serious about helping others as Ray is. He's one of those players you can proudly say, 'He's on our team.'"

As an unsigned franchise player, Rice was absent from his teammates for the entire offseason. He remarked several times that he missed the camaraderie of his teammates.

Now, he'll rejoin them on the field next week when he reports to training camp.

"I'll always keep it real for you, but I'm always optimistic," Rice said when asked about his contract situation Friday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion. "God has put me in a position where not too many people can say they've been. I never played for the dollars and all of that other stuff.

"My rookie contract, quite frankly, you just signed it and go play football. So, this is a little bit different of an experience for me. Needless to say, what puts a smile on my face is that no matter the money I made, I still get to go out here and kids get to see me and smile."

Ed Reed 'thinking about other things'

OWINGS MILLS -- Ed Reed clapped his hands, smiling, shouting and encouraging a budding young football player to run hard all the way through the finish line during a speed drill. The Baltimore Ravens' All-Pro free safety displayed his quick feet during a ladder drill, stepping smoothly in rapid-fire motion in a demonstration of footwork skills during his annual football camp Monday morning at Stevenson University.

The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year's thoughts were consumed by coaching up roughly 100 youngsters instead of talking about his undisclosed plans for this season as he enters the final year of his contract.

"This is about camp, man," Reed said when asked if the enthusiasm of the kids gets him hungry for the approaching NFL season. "My mind is so far away from what's about to happen in the fall. I'm thinking about other things. They've got more than this to be handled, so to say. It's about these kids right now. I'm always excited about life."

Reed politely declined to field any football questions with a small group of local reporters. Any of his recent Twitter remarks or radio comments that have been widely interpreted as hinting at a potential holdout or his decision to skip a mandatory minicamp this spring, which is expected to draw a hefty fine from the Ravens under the NFL collective bargaining agreement, weren't addressed Monday

However, Reed is widely expected to play this fall by team officials and teammates. And Reed looked like he's been preparing himself to do so, appearing to be in excellent condition as he heads into his 34th birthday in September. "I take care of myself," said Reed, who's due a $7.2 million base salary in the final year of his $40 million contract. "I try my best. Working out is a part of life. My dad has diabetes. I try to motivate him to get up and do something, do some walking."

Reed seemed genuinely excited about Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees stopping by to wish him well during the camp. They spoke for several minutes and hugged before Pees left the practice field at Mustang Stadium. "Awesome, man," Reed said. "I saw him standing there, but I wasn't sure who he was. I looked up because I was talking to the coaches, but I see the Ravens logo. Coach Pees, all the guys on the team have so much respect for coach Pees. He's just a great man. He just has a great spirit about him.

"If you ever talk to him, you know he has his heart in the right place. I know it was so far away from professional football for him to come out here. It was for him to come out and just support see these kids and just be a part of it." Ravens defensive tackle Bryan Hall attended the camp, assisting his teammate.

Hall offered no prediction, though, on whether Reed will report for camp next week.

"I think Ed's going to do what's best for Ed," Hall said. "I support him either way. He's a great guy. He's always got my support."

Reed has drawn criticism from fans and media for his comments where he has said a player's primary recourse to force a team's hand is to hold out. When asked if he's misunderstood, Reed replied: "Not everybody is going to understand you. You can't please everybody. That's just human nature. Everybody has their opinion, and that's going to be there. You deal with it. You take it in stride. You take the good with the bad, the bad with the good. That's part of life."

Reed said that he emphasized making good decisions on and off the field to the campers. He posed for photographs, talked with parents and hung out with their kids as they ate lunch. Reed said he wants to impart a message about the importance of giving back.

"I've been a part of this community for a long time," said Reed, who was drafted in the first round by the Ravens in 2002. "There's a lot of people that support me, a lot of people that enjoy what I've done over my 10 years on the football field and in the community.

"It's important for me to give back to something that I came from. I have a lot of mentors, a lot of people here who still support me, a lot of people that help me through the everyday things in life that we all go through"

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