In a dramatic offseason maneuver, the Ravens signed running back Ray Rice to a five-year contract just minutes before Mondays deadline for franchise players.
Rice, who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2011, landed a 40 million deal that includes 24 million in guaranteed salary, including 17 million in the first year.
Although the deal's total value is smaller than the deals signed by other top running backs such as Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy and Houston's Arian Foster since the end of last season, Rice is getting several million more than the others in guaranteed money, with the bulk of it coming in the first two years of the deal.
No matter how you slice it or look at it, Rice is now a wealthy young man.
"Baltimore I'm back well I never left lol" Rice tweeted shortly after the deal was struck.
This is another example of (Ravens owner) Steve Bisciottis commitment to the team and to our fans to retain our core players," Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said in a statement, adding that Rice's "production on the field speaks for itself, and his leadership in the locker room is outstanding."
The negotiations went right up to the deadline. There was no news from either side and little reason for optimism until a half hour before the deadline when Ravens fullback Vonta Leach tweeted: @RayRice27 and the ravens will get a deal done.
His tweet proved prophetic.
Once the news of the deal spread, Rice's teammates weigh in immediately on Twitter.
"YESSIR!!!!!!!" receiver Torrey Smith wrote.
Even the baseball team across town weighed in, as Orioles outfielder Adam Jones tweeted, "Congrats to my dude @RayRice27 on his new contract. Let's do something special in Bmore for years to come my man. Ball outrageous."
Rice had walked into the Ravens' training facility around 3:15 p.m. to be on hand as his attorney, Todd France, negotiated with Pat Moriarty, the Ravens' vice-president for football administration. After the deal was struck, Rice left the facility to celebrate with his family without speaking to the media.
With the move, the Ravens lock up the services of their offensive engine, who has generated more 6,600 yards of rushing and receiving yards in four seasons, making two trips to the Pro Bowl in the process.
The deal also eliminates the potential distraction of wondering whether Rice would miss part of training camp, as was his right as a franchise player. Rice skipped the teams entire offseason program, including the mandatory minicamp last month.
When the Ravens hold their first training camp practice on July 26, Rice will be on the field with his teammates for the first time since the AFC title game in January.
With Rice locked up, the Ravens will not face the possibility of seeingthree of their cornerstone players (Rice, quarterback Joe Flacco and safety EdReed) simultaneously reach unrestricted free agency after the 2012 season.
Now, signing Flacco becomes the priority.
According to Pro Football Talk, Rice is receiving a 15 million signing bonus along with a non-guaranteed base salary of 2 million in 2012. (As if they would cut him.) A 7 million option bonus is due in March 2013, with a 1 million base salary for the 2013 season.
For those keeping score at home, that's 24 million in Rice's pocket by next March. Rice is due to earn a base salary of 4 million in 2014 and 3 million in both 2015 and 2016.
The deal also includes a 5 million bonus structure, as spelled out by Pro Football Talk: "If he reaches specific rushingreceiving targets in any of the first three years of the deal, and if the team finishes in the top 10 in total offense, Rice receives a 1 million incentive in the year he accomplishes the feat and another 4 million is spread over the remaining years of the deal."