Ten years ago you didn’t think twice about paying a versatile player like Ray Rice top market value. Given his age, his production, and his contribution in an offense, a team wouldn’t balk at his price tag.
But times are a changing.
Rice is believed to be seeking $10 million a year from the Baltimore Ravens, who are reportedly unwilling to pay their top offensive piece Adrian Peterson-type money. AP just signed a seven-year, $96 million extension with the Vikings last September and the deal includes $36 million in guaranteed money. In that same month, Chris Johnson signed a six-year, $55.26 million deal with the Titans that also included $30 million in guarantees.
Seeing as how Peterson tore his ACL and Johnson produced his worst season as a pro, you can understand why the Ravens are hesitant to pay Rice what he wants. The other issue is that running backs aren’t worth what they were 10, or even seven years ago. Nowadays, most teams believe that investing big money in a running back is unnecessary given how you can find a productive back in the middle rounds of the draft. Plus, by the time backs are 30 their production dips dramatically and they prove they’re not worth the investment.
That said, Rice shouldn’t be criticized for trying to cash in during his prime. As previously noted, he’s been an extremely productive back and for all intents and purposes, has been the entire Baltimore offense at times. NFL players have a very small window in which to be productive and get that long-term contract before the game pushes them out. Rice is merely protecting his biggest investment (himself) and in no way is that intended to make him sound selfish.
But unfortunately for Rice, he also plays running back in a passing era. No team, not even the Ravens after having a front row seat to his splendor over the last four years, is going to pay a running back $10 million a year. That’s just the way it is.
So what’s the solution? Rice should take a long, hard look at the contract LeSean McCoy just signed with the Eagles. “Shady” received a six-year, $45.615 million contract that also includes $20.765 million in guaranteed money. While McCoy is “only” making $7.5 million a year, the guaranteed portion of the contract is what really matters. No, Rice wouldn’t receive $30-plus million in guaranteed money like Peterson or Johnson, but $20 million for a running back in this era wouldn’t be chump change either.
If you’re Rice, you would hate to feel like your compromising but he and his agent must realize that he’s not going to get a deal worth $10 million a year, which also includes with $30 million in guarantees. All things being considered, McCoy’s contract should be what Rice his ultimately shooting for.