After a lengthy contract negotiation that lasted almost the entire off season the Baltimore Ravens have finally locked up All Pro running back Ray Rice to a lucrative five year deal. With this deal in place Rice is locked in as the teams number one back for years to come.
Now it's on to the next issue in the backfield. Who will be the next man up behind Rice. Last season the Ravens drafted Anthony Allen in the seventh round and many thought he could be the heir apparent to the recently retired Ricky Williams. I however, never saw him as a viable option to back-up Rice as a rookie. Allen came from a triple option offense at Georgia Tech in which he was rarely the first or even second option. Allen was a bigger back by college standards but in the NFL he was just another average late round pick.
In the past the Ravens have always liked to have more than one viable option at running back. For one thing in case of injury but also the Ravens like to give Rice a rest. In doing so they like to bring in a down hill runner that can wear a defense down so when the shifty Rice reenters the game the defense is unprepared for his speed and elusiveness. Maybe Allen could be that guy some day but obviously the Ravens felt that this was not the time for experimentation when they have a Super Bowl ready team.So shortly before the preseason the Ravens front office brass decided to bring in veteran running back Ricky Williams to fill the void left by Willis McGahee.This was a great move as it turns out. The Raves got a lot of good football out of Williams and he came in knowing his role. He even went so far as to help mentor the young Rice and help him to try and reach his full potential. It also gave Allen time to adjust to the game at the NFL level where there are no slouches and every player on the field is one of the best in the world.
The Ravens signed Williams to a two-year deal hoping he could maintain a high level of play into 2012 giving them time to figure out the future behind Rice. However shortly after the season Ricky retired, as he often does, leaving the Ravens with another hole to fill. Many fans thought right off the bat that this would be Allen's turn to carry the rock behind the Pro Bowler but Baltimore surprised everyone again by trading up in the third round to select Temple running back Bernard Pierce.
Because of this there was much speculation around Baltimore that the Ravens may be preparing for eventual life without Rice and that maybe internally the organization knew they could not afford the hefty deal that the all-star would demand. Well, all that talk was squashed just a few short days ago when the Ravens and Ray Rice announced their new deal. Now it seems to be apparent to most that the drafting of Pierce was for one reason. They drafted him to sure up the RB2 position.
There is still some speculation between fans and media that Allen or the recently signed undrafted free agent Damien Berry could be in the running for the number two running back position. To me though, the writing is on the wall. If Ozzie Newsome wanted to trade a third and fifth round draft pick for a running back he could have probably done so for many productive backs that are already NFL proven. Instead they found some one in the draft they really liked and used two picks to get him. To me there is no question what so ever. Bernard Pierce was brought in to be the Baltimore Ravens number two running back and barring any unforeseen circumstances that is exactly what he will be come week one.
The great thing about freedom of speech is that I am aloud to think that and I'm sure many of you will disagree with me. In this great forum that SB Nation has put together you can all express your opinions on the subject as well. So please tell us, who do you think will be our number two back this season and why?