Now that Haloti Ngata's new contract has been wrapped up and we know he'll be hanging around Owings Mills for at least the next five years, it's time to turn our attention to the rest of the Ravens' roster.
Who will be next to score a long-term deal and a nice big check from Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti?
The two clear prime targets are running back Ray Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco.
Rice's rookie contract expires at the end of this season, allowing the Pro Bowl back to become an unrestricted free agent this spring. Flacco is under contract through 2012, but has expressed a desire to work out an extension with the Ravens sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Asked about their future with the organization yesterday, both players merely chose to applaud Ngata for earning his new contract, and said their focus is on football and preparing for the Rams.
"I firmly believe that I am going to be here for a while," Rice said. "I really try not to worry about that kind of stuff, obviously, during the season. I have the right guy, my agent (Todd France), and the organization will definitely take care of that. Whether it's right now or after the season, my job right now is just to play football."
"It's great for Haloti to get a great deal, and I think, hopefully in some future, all of us are going get a new deal," said Flacco. "I'm not going to think about it. I'm just glad for Haloti right now. I'm not really thinking about myself."
Along with Flacco and Rice, left guard Ben Grubbs will also be looking for a new deal, as his rookie contract expires at the end of the season. That will make for an interesting offseason for GM Ozzie Newsome, who will have plenty of decisions to make regarding how to spend his available salary cap money.
Ngata's signing might make Newsome's task next spring a little easier; it means the Ravens won't have to use their franchise tag on the Pro Bowl defensive tackle again to ensure he'll be wearing purple and black in 2012. That frees up the tag to be placed on either Rice or Grubbs, if the Ravens choose to do so.
A player who is given the franchise tag receives a one-year contract worth the average of the top-five highest paid players at his position. That figure would be manageable if the tag is applied to Grubbs. It would be less manageable if applied to a running back, like Rice, and if the Ravens get through the 2012 season without a new contract for Flacco, it would cost them a boatload to use the tag on their quarterback.
Still, one area where Bisciotti and GM Ozzie Newsome have excelled over the years is not allowing the elite guys that they have drafted and developed to hit the free agent market and sign elsewhere.
Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Marshal Yanda and Ngata have all been rewarded with long-term deals under Newsome, and everyone in the Ravens' locker room seems to know who will be next to score a deserved payday.
"There's no secret," Lewis said. "I think our organization does a great job in handling those guys. Ozzie does a great job in talking to those guys personally, to kind of let them know where they're at. I think everybody knew what the food chain is, what the priorities of what we're trying to get done is. I think Joe and Ray know what's coming up next for them."
"There's very few players in the NFL that can be considered Ravens, and the ones they thing are Ravens, they keep here," Suggs added. "They do a good job of keeping guys with that Ravens identity here."