Franchise Tag Contract Deadline Today For Ravens & Ray Rice

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 4: Strong safety Usama Young #28 of the Cleveland Browns watches Running back Ray Rice #27 celebrate with teammate tight end Dennis Pitta #88 of the Baltimore Ravens after Rice scored during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The deadline for NFL players who have received the Franchise Tag to get signed to long-term deals is 4pm today (ET). If any player designated with the tag that will pay them the average of the top five players at their position has not agreed with his team on a new contract by then, they must play the entire 2012 season under that tag.

Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice appears to be expected to have to "settle" for the $7.7 million that his Franchise Tag will pay him, unless both sides come to some sort of mutual understanding very quickly. The Ravens appear ready to accept this and the logic is that the team is willing to wait until they work out a new contract for QB Joe Flacco before they commit to any other long-term deal.

(Read more on this after the 'Jump')

Stories on both NFL.com and Pro Football Talk mention that Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte and his team might beat this deadline, but there is nothing to hold out hope that the Ravens and Rice will do the same before the deadline. The Ravens also want to see what the evolution of the offense holds for them in 2012 before deciding to spend the big bucks it would take to lock up Rice for the rest of his career.

With other young running backs on the team, including Anthony Allen and this year's 3rd round draft pick, Bernard Pierce, the Ravens do not appear afraid to consider moving on if they cannot get Rice signed to a more cap-friendly deal or even place the Franchise Tag on Rice for the 2013 season as well.

The longer this issue remains open, the better chance the relationship between the two sides simmers and deteriorates. However, the Ravens have never negotiated their contracts in public and this one will not be resolved until the team is ready to do so.

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