Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice is scheduled to hit free agency as an unrestricted free agent in the 2012 offseason, but it's likely the Pro Bowl running back is hit with the franchise tag, according to a report by The Baltimore Sun.
If an agreement isn't reached by the March 5 deadline for teams to apply the franchise tag -- and it would be somewhat surprising if there was a deal in place by then given the expected amount of money involved -- the Ravens have indicated that they will use the tag to keep Rice under contract for 2012.
If the Ravens decide to apply the franchise tag to Rice, he'll be paid roughly $7.7 million guaranteed for 2012 under the franchise tender. Rice is coming off his best season in the NFL and his third consecutive season rushing for more than 1,000 yards. Rice finished up 2011 with 1,364 rushing yards with 12 rushing touchdowns and 704 receiving yards with three receiving touchdowns, all career bests. The running back out of Rutgers has been a vital piece of the Ravens' success the past three seasons and is a priority for the Ravens to keep.
For more analysis of Rice's situation, be sure to check out Ravens blog Baltimore Beatdown.