Ray Rice, of course, wants Adrian Peterson money.
We all do.
But the impending free agent most definitely won’t be paid as handsomely as Peterson was prior to the 2011 season.
This is not about Ray Rice being “no Adrian Peterson” — he outpaced Peterson throughout 2011 and has been just as productive as AP in two of the last three years. Rice was a deserving second-team All-Pro and led the entire league in yards per scrimmage.
At this point in their careers, Rice is the more valuable back.
But what will hurt Rice’s chances is the fact that after Peterson and fellow “elite” running back Chris Johnson were given lucrative extensions this summer, both failed miserably to live up to their new contracts in the fall.
Peterson’s numbers weren’t the problem, although he was often less than spectacular in a struggling offense. But then he blew out his knee, tearing his ACL and MCL in Week 16. His career might never be the same. You can’t blame Peterson, who signed a seven-year, $96-million deal on Sept. 10, for the injury, but it’s still become a cautionary tale in regard to paying big money to big-time backs.
Johnson is coming off of one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory. After signing a four-year, $54-million extension just prior to the season, he had just one 100-yard game during the first nine weeks of the year, and finished with only 4.0 yards per carry and four touchdowns.
Another cautionary tale.
The two highest-paid running backs of all time are giving their teams buyer’s regret less than half a year after signing their new contracts.
Rice is only 25 years old, but that’s far from fresh in running back terms. Peterson and Johnson were only one year older than Rice when they hit their walls in 2011. Rice has averaged 356 touches over his past three seasons — that’s more than Peterson or Johnson averaged in the three seasons that preceded their 2011 letdowns.
In the very near future, the Ravens are likely to slap the franchise tag on Rice, which would put him under contract for less than $8 million this season. In fact, they could tag him for the next two years for only about $17 million. The smart business decision would be to take that approach and gamble that he has begun to decline at the age of 27. If he has, you’ve made the right decision and haven’t handcuffed yourself to a geriatric back. If he hasn’t, you either pay up or dip into the draft or free agency for the next hot commodity at a position with the shortest shelf life in American sports.
Not fair, right? Yeah, yeah. Life isn’t fair. It’s not fair that your average family doctor makes $250,000 while your average running back makes about $2 million.
Rice might become a victim of the NFL’s big-business nature and mentality, but it’s that same system that made him a filthy rich man. Consider that before feeling sorry for Rice and his soon-to-be-tagged cohorts such as Matt Forte and Marshawn Lynch.