There were two franchise-caliber running backs hoping to get long-term contracts for themselves before Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, and both of them — Chicago's Matt Forte and Baltimore's Ray Rice — wound up with success.
We've already reported the Forte deal, and the Ravens came in just under the deadline by signing Rice to a five-year contract worth $40 million maxed out; $17 million in the first season, $25 million over the first two seasons and the first $24 million guaranteed.
"This is another example of [team owner] Steve Bisciotti's commitment to the team and to our fans to retain our core players," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in the press release announcing the deal. "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.
"I should say something about his community efforts; I think they are almost unmatched by any player in the NFL. You'd have a hard time finding a player who does more or is as serious about helping others as Ray is. He is one of those players you can proudly say, 'He's on our team.'"
The deal puts Rice in line with the NFL's best-compensated backs, including Adrian Peterson (seven years, $100 million, $30 million guaranteed), Chris Johnson (four years, $53.5 million, $30 million guaranteed), LeSean McCoy (five years, $45.6million, $20.8 million guaranteed), and Arian Foster (five years, $43.5 million, $20.8 million guaranteed). It's also quite a bit pricier than Forte's four-year, $32 million deal with $18 million guaranteed, but Rice has earned every bit of his new agreement.
It's a crucial move for the Ravens, because Rice has grown into the fulcrum of their offense. It's not what was expected out of a "too short, too small" back selected in the late second round of the 2008 draft out of Rutgers. Rice had a chip on his shoulder from Day 1, and he proved as soon as he was able that he could do anything and everything expected of an elite NFL back.
Rice started just four games in his rookie campaign as the man behind Le'Ron McClain and Willis MaGahee, but from his second season through his fourth, he's been a model of consistency. From 2009 through 2011, Rice has averaged 1,308 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 284 carries per season, and has added an average of 72 catches per season for 654 yards and three touchdowns.
Elite Athlete Workouts
Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
• Dan Wetzel: Former Penn State president Graham Spanier was a hypocrite
• Roundtable: Should Team USA go back to using college players?
• Tour de France leaders show great sportsmanship in face of fans' dirty deed
• Y! News: Gang truce in El Salvador cuts murder rate in half