What is Ray Rice Worth?

Now that Haloti Ngata is signed, sealed and guaranteed to anchor the Ravens defensive line for the next five years, I thought it would be interesting during the bye week to look at the next core Ravens players whose contracts are set to expire at the end of this season. The following Ravens key starters are due to become UFAs in 2012 (current contract in parenthesis).

Ray Rice (4 yr/$2,805,000)
Ben Grubbs (5 yr/$8,000,000)
Andre Gurode (1 yr/$3,000,000)
Lardarius Webb (3 yr/$1,714,500)
Jarrett Johnson (5 yr/$21,700,000)
Matt Birk (3 yr/$12,000,000)

I have listed them in my order of signing priority considering current team depth at the positions. I don’t think I will get much argument on Ray Rice being the #1 target. After that, I give O-line the nod by putting Grubbs #2 as a key anchor. I ranked Gurode next (over Birk for age reasons) and I put Webb over Johnson because skill positions are a priority over LB where we have more depth.

So let’s focus first on Ray Rice. What is he worth?

Here is a list of recent top RB signings.

Adrian Peterson – 2011 (7 yrs/$96M/no bonus)
Chris Johnson – 2011 (6 yrs/$56M/$10M)
Frank Gore - 2011 (4 yrs/$25.9M/no bonus)
Mark Ingram* - 2011 (4 yrs/$7.4M/$3.9M)
C.J. Spiller* - 2010 (5 yrs/$25M/no bonus)
Maurice Jones-Drew – 2009 (5 yrs/$30.95M/$9M)
Darren McFadden* - 2008 (6 yrs/$60M/$6.4M)
Steven Jackson – 2008 (6 yrs/$44.8M/$11.4M)
Michael Turner – 2008 (6 yrs/$34.5M/$15M)
(* 1st round draft pick rookie contract)

So where does Ray Rice fit into this salary structure?

Ray is a true 3-down RB whose value may actually increases on 3rd down passing situations. That makes it difficult to compare him to an Adrian Peterson who is of higher value from a purely statistical running the ball comparison. The RB who gained more yards receiving and rushing in 2010 was Arian Foster. As an undrafted rookie, Foster is currently playing under a one-year contract tender for the third-year NFL minimum salary. So Ray’s value should be somewhere between Foster ($525K) and Peterson ($96M). That helps.

Chris Johnson of the Titans is probably the best comparison in terms of both age and value to the team. Johnson just signed an extension, so that certainly will be the benchmark both sides use. For argument’s sake, let’s slot Ray next year at 6 years/$56M with a $10M signing bonus.

That’s a big chunk of salary cap hit with the other pending UFAs still to sign and a certain QB wanting a long term deal. We will certainly jettison Foxworth’s cap hit ($5.6M) and if we win the Super Bowl we could potentially lose Ray Lewis’ salary as well ($4.95M in 2012). Combine those two and you basically cover Little Ray’s $9.3M/yr.

So is Ray Rice worth a Chris Johnson type contract? Do you think he signs for less? Or do you find a cheaper alternative via the draft and use the cap space for other needs?

The opinions posted here are those of the administrator of this blog and his loyal readers. They are in no way official comments from the team, and should not be misconstued as such, even though he thinks he could do just as well or even a better job!

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