|Rice is good, but is he worth 'AP money'? (Getty Images)|
One guy we expect to see franchised over the next fortnight or so is Ravens running back Ray Rice. Rice is an unrestricted free agent, is just 25, and is one of only 16 NFL players since the merger to accumulate multiple seasons with 2,000 or more yards from scrimmage. But we also expect Rice and the Ravens to work out a new long-term deal; Rice said he's OK with the tag provided it leads to such a deal.
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But his expectations might be too high: Peter King of Sports Illustrated writes Monday morning that he's hearing Rice "wants an Adrian Peterson-type of contract" for his next deal.
Unfortunately, that's probably not happening. Prior to the 2011 season, Peterson signed a seven-year deal worth up to $100 million, with $36 million guaranteed.
That's "best running back in the NFL" money, and Peterson might be lone exception when discussing running backs who are worthy of that kind of cheddar. (Of course, Peterson spent much of 2011 dealing with a high-ankle sprain that Leslie Frazier later parlayed into a torn ACL by rushing his franchise player back onto the field too quickly.)
Rice, as talented as he is, isn't worth that much money. The Ravens know this and they won't give Rice "AP money." King writes as much, saying that he "doesn't see them going anywhere near that for Rice," although he believes that Baltimore will find a way to get Rice his cash.
A closer approximation to what Rice could get? The deal the Carolina Panthers handed DeAngelo Williams after the 2011 lockout. Williams got a five-year, $43 million deal with $21 million guaranteed.
Rice is more valuable than Williams (the stats bear that out, particularly in 2011), but Williams deal was -- and remains -- a straight-up overpay. The Panthers threw the market for "franchise running backs" out of whack, and now guys like Rice and Matt Forte, who run a lot of risk by only playing for a one-year guaranteed deal in 2011, will suffer because of it.
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