Ravens owner Stephen Bisciotti made a bold prediction Wednesday, stating at a news conference that RB Ray Rice would be back in Baltimore next season.
"Ray (Rice) and (QB) Joe Flacco will be a part of this football team next year, period," Bisciotti said.
Rice is slated to become a free agent this offseason, after the four-year, $2.8 million contract that he signed coming out of Rutgers expires. In his last three years with Baltimore, Rice has averaged 1,308 rushing yards and 654 receiving yards per season, and he has averaged 4.6 yards per carry during his NFL career. Rice had a classic contract year in 2011, compiling 1,364 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns on the ground and 704 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns, all career highs. He has started all but three games during the last three seasons.
Bisciotti admitted that the franchise tag might be a factor in the team's negotiations with Rice, although general manager Ozzie Newsome tweeted that the team would prefer to have a deal done with Rice before they consider placing a franchise tag on him.
Meanwhile, Bisciotti defended Flacco, who has had his ups and downs since becoming Baltimore's starter. He tossed 20 touchdowns against 12 interceptions in 2011 but averaged a career-low 6.7 yards per attempt and completed a career-low 57.6 percent of his passes. He actually outdueled Tom Brady, finishing with 306 passing yards and a 95.4 passer rating, in his team's AFC championship game loss to the Patriots, and Bisciotti said the Ravens will win a Super Bowl with Flacco's arm.
"I think he's going to have rings and he's going to have 10 years in his prime to show it," Bisciotti said.
Flacco is due to become a free agent after the 2012 season.
Meanwhile, Rice will be rejoined by RB Ricky Williams, who said he has no plans to retire this year, even though he'll turn 35 in May, which is old for an NFL running back.
"I'm not so surprised i've played this long, but I am surprised at how good I feel," Williams said, according to Garrett Downing's post on the team's blog.
Although Williams rushed for just 444 yards in 2011, he made a positive impact on Rice, who frequently referred to Williams as "the best thing that ever happened to me," according to the blog.