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No doubt about importance of Rice, Flacco to Ravens

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Posted Feb. 04, 2012 @ 3:34 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

The Ravens believe they have a strong hand on offense with RB Ray Rice and QB Joe Flacco.

And at the team's season-ending press conference, owner Steve Bisciotti didn't hesitate to show his hand with regard to the futures of both players in Baltimore.

Bisciotti indicated that Rice, who's slated to be an unrestricted free agent, is a candidate to get the franchise tag should a contract extension not be reached with him. Rice racked up 2,068 combined yards in 2011.

Flacco, who has one year left on his contract, is in line to receive a new deal, Bisciotti said.

"We are just going to sit down and start grinding out a contract and terms, and that's something that I trust (GM Ozzie Newsome) and (VP of football administration Pat Moriarty) to do well," Bisciotti said.

Bisciotti and Newsome presented a unified front on Flacco. "I think he's going to win Super Bowls — a lot of them," Newsome said of the Ravens' quarteback. "And I hope to be a part of them. He has improved."

Bisciotti, meanwhile, said Flacco's presence makes any concerns about the Ravens' age — especially their age on defense — a moot point.

"I don't see age as being a window closing, not when you have a franchise quarterback coming up that's entering his fifth year," Bisciotti said.

While you can pencil Flacco and Rice into the lineup for 2012, the Ravens have plenty of other lineup questions to address. The offensive line is one position group that could undergo some changes, with Newsome naming it as an area that needs to be bolstered. C Matt Birk, who's slated to be an unrestricted free agent, is contemplating retirement. Backup C Andre Gurode's contract is also up. Newsome said the club would be adding a center in the offseason.

The Ravens also could have a decision to make regarding Pro Bowl OLG Ben Grubbs, who could draw strong interest in free agency and will not be cheap to retain.

"Ben has two major factors that we like: He's a really good player and he's young," Newsome said of Grubbs, who turns 28 in March. However, any decision on whether to bring back Grubbs, Newsome said, would force the team to weigh "who will Ben keep us from getting and who will we have to let go in order to keep Ben? That's going to be the balance."

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