NFL notes: Ravens focus on Rice, Flacco deals

Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


Having locked up cornerback Lardarius Webb this week with an expensive six-year extension that could be maxed out at $50 million with incentives, the Ravens are said to be making progress with "franchised" tailback Ray Rice.
There has been no advance to date on a new contract for quarterback Joe Flacco, although discussions have been mostly positive, according to sources.
--The Steelers, who probably need to add a young quarterback even if veteran backup Byron Leftwich returns to the team, are intrigued by Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, especially by his toughness and leadership. Pittsburgh also feels former Heisman winner Troy Smith might develop as a viable No. 3 guy.
--This week certainly offered one more reminder, as if it was needed, that the NFL is the preeminent professional sports league of all-time. Sure, the "Bountygate" tape and the appeals were the major headlines. But what other sports entity could command so much attention, at least for two days, with uniform changes and the release of its exhibition schedule?
--There are at least two teams who feel that Stanford guard David DeCastro, a player many feel is the best prospect in years at the position, can play right tackle in the league.
--Oakland officials allow that tailback Michael Bush, who signed with Chicago as a free agent, will be difficult to replace as the backup to oft-injured starter Darren McFadden, who is coming off a Lis Franc injury. But the Raiders privately feel last week's trade for former Carolina running back Mike Goodson gives them a reliable No. 2, if he can practice better ball security. And there is optimism that Taiwan Jones can develop into more than merely a sprinter in his second season.
--The Packers will keep an open mind when they meet next week with safety Nick Collins and his agents, but there is lingering concern about the veteran's neck condition. Collins will have to have some very strong reports from neck specialists for the Packers to clear him to resume his career.
--The 15-day sentence imposed on unrestricted free agent wide receiver Jerome Simpson this week has slowed, but not ended, the pursuit of the Rams and the possibility of him re-signing in Cincinnati. Both are long shots, but still possible. St. Louis, though, seems to be concentrating more on Jerricho Cotchery.
--The three teams interested in guard Eric Steinbach, who was recently released by Cleveland, probably will have him in for a physical exam, but word is that the back injury that sidelined him for all of 2011 has healed well.