Ravens, Rice, Flacco, Grubbs set for high-stakes talks

Written by on February 22, 2012 in Featured, Ravens - No comments

In a perfect world, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome would be able to lock up both Joe Flacco and Ray Rice by the March 5 deadline.

The world of the National Football League is not perfect.

Flacco’s scheduled to enter the final year of his rookie contract, and both parties would like to make a deal to officially make him the quarterback of the future. Rice will be a free agent after March 5 unless the Ravens either sign him to a well-deserved long-term deal or franchise him for an estimated $7.7 million.

If the Ravens can’t get Rice (above) signed by March 5, the club will put a franchise tag on him to buy more time for negotiations. Photo by Phil Hoffmann/Baltimore Ravens

It’s clear the Ravens plan to work on Flacco’s deal first, followed by Rice.

The dilemma is that both these deals must be made before the Ravens consider a deal for Ben Grubbs, an emerging star on the offensive line.

With any negotiation, one party starts high and the other group goes low. Flacco’s side wants top-five quarterback money. Baltimore’s not going to go there immediately. Flacco’s in a tough position since his 44 wins in his first four years ranks as the best in NFL history. Yet his stats don’t show he’s in that top-five category yet.

Negotiations are set to begin this week, and a contract could take some time. Neither side will give into each other’s demands immediately.

This leaves the Rice negotiations in waiting, with little expectation that both sides will reach a long-term and appropriate deal by the time he becomes a free agent. That means the Ravens are expected to use their franchise tag on him, which gives the organization more time to negotiate a deal, much like it did with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata last year.

However, that could leave Grubbs the odd man out. Grubbs is set to be a free agent this year and will demand a big contract.

“Ben has two major factors that we like: He’s a really good player and he’s young,” Newsome said at the State of the Ravens presser on Feb. 1. “So, as we start to put together the 53-man squad, going into 2012, we will factor those things in. But what we also have to factor in, what will that keep us from getting and what will that force us to have to get rid of in order to keep [him]?”

If the Ravens are forced to let Grubbs walk during the offseason then there will be a huge hole to fill. That could be an area the Ravens target in the first two rounds of the draft.

Who do Ravens select in the first round?

This year’s draft class is deep in interior offensive line talent. If Grubbs is gone and Baltimore decides it needs a guard in the first round at pick 29, then Georgia guard Cordy Glenn would be someone worth selecting.

Glenn is 6-foot-5 and 338 pounds, with the versatility to play both guard positions and tackle. He’s likely to be available in the late first round and is someone that could be plugged in to a run-first offense like Baltimore’s.

The Ravens are also in the market for a center as either Matt Birk or Andre Gurode, but not both, will likely be back next season (Birk is still deciding whether to retire. If he doesn’t retire, then the Ravens are not likely to re-sign Gurode.)

Wisconsin center Peter Konz is the best at his position in this draft and could be available at the 29th overall selection. At Wisconsin, Konz helped pave the way for one of the best rushing attacks in the NCAA, ranking eighth at 235.6 yards per game.

It wouldn’t be far fetched for the Ravens to select an offensive lineman in the first two rounds. If they decide to select a different position first, potential offensive line options in the second round include Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler, Washington guard Kelechi Osemele and Georgia center Ben Jones.

There are two inside linebackers that could tempt Baltimore in the first round. The first is Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower, who excelled on the best defense in college football in 2011. If the Ravens select an inside linebacker, it’s clear they’ve decided to make the commitment to groom the replacement for Ray Lewis.

Another option at inside linebacker is Arizona State’s Vontaze Burfict, though he has some attitude issues that has caused his draft stock to drop to the end of the first round, and possibly further.

An outside-the-box selection could be South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who has the size (6-4, 229) and strength to win jump-ball battles that Baltimore’s been missing in recent years. His only issue has been straight-line speed, but he was able to stand out in the SEC, despite having poor quarterback play during his time in college.

Local sports for kids
Fortview Community Softball, co-ed leagues for ages 5-17, currently have sign-ups every Saturday at the Du Burns Arena. The next will be on Feb. 25 and March 3. Sign-ups are held from 9 a.m.-noon now through March 31. Bring children’s birth certificate for proof of age, and be ready to pay registration fee. Info: Larry Vallerani 410-633-6672.

by Jason Butt

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