Now that the Ravens have locked up running back Ray Rice to a five-year deal, what moves to the top of their agenda?
Thats easy. Theyll turn their focus to retaining two of their other core players, quarterback Joe Flacco and safety Ed Reed.
Both players are entering the final year of their contract in 2012, and both have made it plain that they would like new deals, preferably sooner rather than later.
Flacco, 27, has flat-out stated he would like a new deal in place before the 2012 season begins, as opposed to waiting until after the season, when his contract signed as a rookie runs out.
Reed, 33, has not made such a straightforward statement, instead offering a stream of alternately vague and ominous comments about possibly retiring or being cut all of which make it clear that he wants another contract.
The Ravens have made more noise about re-upping with Flacco, who is line for his first major payday, as opposed to Reed, who signed a six-year, 44 million deal in 2006. Even though Reed is one of the franchises all-time greats, destined for the Hall of Fame, it would seem that getting Flacco locked up is the more immediate priority. Franchise quarterbacks are difficult to find, almost impossible to replace, and while Flacco has had his ups and downs, he has won a lot of games and the Ravens believe he is on the verge of becoming an upper-level performer.
But negotiations between the team and Flaccos agent havent been fast-paced, and of course, theres the major issue of determining just how much he is worth. It certainly didn't hurt Flacco's cause when New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees signed a 100 million deal last week, seemingly pushing up the scale for all quarterbacks.
The insertion of a deadline into the Ray Rice situations succeeded in forcing a conclusion, but no such deadline exists in Flaccos situation, at least in the near future. The Ravens could put the franchise tag on Flacco in 2013 now that Rice is locked up, meaning that they know he could wear their uniform for at least another two years without landing a new deal.
Having said that, they want to satisfy their quarterback, would like the deal to get done, and probably will try to do so fairly soon.
Reeds situation is murkier. The Ravens also want to make him happy if anything so he will pipe down but they arent going to pay too much for a player who would be 35 when his new deal begins and has talked about holding out. It remains to be seen how they will handle this increasingly delicate situation.
But one way or another, thats where their attention now turns.