Ray Rice and the Ravens have until Monday at 4 p.m. to work out a new contract that will keep the running back in Baltimore for many years to come.
If that deadline passes without a new deal in place, then Rice and the Ravens will have to wait until next offseason to re-open long-term contract talks.
The Ravens have currently placed the franchise tag on the fifth-year running back, but he has yet to sign the tag.
As Monday's deadline approaches, here's a closer look at all of the possible scenarios:
Two sides reach a deal by July 16
Rice gets paid and the Ravens keep their franchise running back in purple and black for the foreseeable future.
This situation would require a lot to happen between now and the deadline. The two sides would have to compromise on the length and financial terms of the contract, and it's unknown how close they are. Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said last month the two sides are "not that far off," but the specifics of proposed contracts terms have not been made public.
While it doesn't appear much progress has been made throughout the offseason, history has shown these deals tend to get done late in the process when a deadline is looming. That's what happened last year with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
Also, the Ravens have a history of reaching long-term deals with their star players (Ngata, Terell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware) and they have consistently said that the goal is to sign Rice to a new contract.
Two sides don't reach a new deal, Rice signs franchise tag immediately and reports to camp
If the Ravens can't work out a new contract with Rice, then the only option is for him to play this season under the one-year tag worth about $7.7 million (unless he decides to sit out the year, which is unlikely).
Players must be under contract to participate in training camp, so signing the franchise tag right away would allow Rice to be present when camp opens on July 25.
He did not participate in any of the voluntary team activities or mandatory minicamp this offseason, although **Head Coach John Harbaugh said that expects him **to be ready when he eventually does report.
Two sides don't reach a new deal, Rice waits to sign franchise tag and holds out
The other possibility for Rice is that he decides not to report to training camp right away or even longer.
Some players opt to go that route because they don't have a long-term guarantee and would rather not risk injury during camp.
Players are paid their annual salary when the regular season starts, so they go through camp for much smaller compensation (per diem of about $1,600 a week). Players can get fined if they miss time during training camp, but Rice would not be subject to those fines because he would still not be under contract.
If Rice decided to skip some or all of training camp, it's unclear when he would eventually report. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, he could technically wait until the 10th week of the regular season to sign the franchise tag, although at that point he would be forgoing some of his $7.7 million salary based on the games that he misses. But analysts speculate that if Rice does hold out, it would probably only be return for the season-opener.
Harbaugh has said in the past that he would prefer for every player to be present during all offseason practices, but the organization has dealt with franchised players missing some of camp in previous seasons. Suggs and Chris McAlister both missed the start of training camp when they were franchised.
Another team tries to sign Rice
This has never happened, but it technically could, according to Pro Football Talk.
Franchised players are able to be signed by opposing teams past the July 16 deadline, but doing so carries a hefty price tag. The opposing team would have to sign the player to an offer sheet that the current team doesn't match. If the current team doesn't match the offer within a week, then the new team would have to give them a first-round pick in 2013 and 2014.
This is a complex nuance within the CBA and no franchised player has ever been signed by another team while under the tag.