With contract soon to expire, Rice says he wants to remain a Raven

In the wake of free agent slugger Albert Pujols accepting a 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels, maybe the most important thing to take away is the unsettling reality that no superstar, no matter how attached fans or an organization might become, is off limits when it comes to free agency.

The Ravens are hoping Ray Rice is the rare exception to this rule.

Rice, in the midst of his most productive season, is in the final year of his rookie contract, and is in store for a nice pay day at the end of this season.

No need to panic, however, Ravens fans. Rice said Thursday he hopes to re-sign with the Ravens, while it is expected that the team will make giving Rice a new contract its highest priority this offseason.

"Our organization is a first-class organization," Rice said on the NFL Network. "They've always did a good job of keeping their star players around and I think I'll be one of the guys that in the offseason - or whenever it is. I figure if you take care of the game, the game will take care of you, and I'll be a Baltimore Raven next year."

If talks between Rice and the Ravens somehow stall, the fourth-year running back will have no shortage of suitors in the open market. Rice is currently tied for fourth in the league with nine rushing touchdowns and has proven to be one of the game's dual threats in both the running and receiving game.

There is the possibility the Ravens could place the franchise tag on Rice, but both parties would rather have a new deal in place soon after the conclusion of the 2011 season.

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