The countdown for Ray Rice to land a contract extension is down to the final hours.
The Pro Bowl running back has until Monday at 4 p.m. to agree to terms with the Ravens.
If no deal is struck, Rice will play for the Ravens in 2012 under the franchise-tag designation, earning 7.7 million on a one-year tender. The two sides would then try again to strike a deal in 2013, with the Ravens holding the option of putting the franchise tag on Rice for a second year.
Rice, who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2011, is one of a handful of high-profile franchise players facing Mondays deadline. Others include New England wide receiver Wes Welker and Chicago running back Matt Forte.
Neither the Ravens nor Rices agent have publicly commented on the negotiations in recent weeks, but several media reports have characterized the sides as far apart and unlikely to strike a deal.
It has been reported that Rice wants a deal that would put him in the top tier of running backs along with Minnesotas Adrian Peterson (seven years, 100 million) and Tennessees Chris Johnson (four years, 53 million), while the Ravens envision him more in the second tier with Houstons Arian Foster (five years, 43.5 million) and Philadelphias LeSean McCoy (five years, 45 million).
Either way, Rice would become one of the highest-paid running backs in the game.
Here is what is at stake today:
If Rice signs by 4 p.m.:
He would earn more than 20 million in guaranteed salary and possibly 25 million or more, as opposed to the 7.7 million he would make as a franchise player in 2012.
The Ravens would lock up the longterm services of their offensive engine, who has generated more than 6,600 yards of rushing and receiving yards in four seasons.
The Ravens would eliminate the distraction of wondering whether Rice would miss part of training camp, as is his right as a franchise player.
If Rice doesnt sign today:
He might only play one more year for the Ravens, depending on how the negotiations go next year and whether he hits the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
He has the option of not signing his tender, skipping training camp and the exhibition season and not joining the team until the regular season begins; franchise players cant be fined for holding out before the season.
The Ravens could find themselves in the position of seeing three of their cornerstone players (Rice, quarterback Joe Flacco and safety Ed Reed) simultaneously reach unrestricted free agency after the 2012 season.
Rice runs the risk of getting injured in 2012 season and seeing his value drop.