Will Ravens and Ray Rice beat deadline for long-term deal?

As the dead zone of the NFL offseason nears its end, the Ravens have a significant few hours ahead.

The team has until 4 p.m. this afternoon to come to terms on a long-term contract with star running back Ray Rice, or he'll have to play this season for the franchise tender worth $7.7 million.

Per league rules regarding the franchise tag, the Ravens wouldn't be able to again negotiate a long-term arrangement with their offensive centerpiece until after the upcoming season.

Rice, 25, has racked up 4,377 rushing yards, 2,235 receiving yards, 24 touchdowns on the ground, five receiving scores and one passing touchdown in his first four seasons since the Ravens selected him in the second round of the 2008 draft.

Last season, he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2,068)and was selected to his second Pro Bowl.