Given the ham-handed, block-headed way NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handled the investigation into the Ray Rice domestic abuse affair, and the mind-bogglingly even more ham-handed, block-headed way he meted out punishment – twice – to the embattled running back, it didn't come as much of a surprise when former US District Court Judge, and independent arbitrator, Barbara S. Jones overturned the indefinite suspension handed down by the league.
So now Rice is a free agent and open to sign with any team in the league. The question now becomes, will any team be willing to give Rice a second chance? Rice comes with a lot of baggage (you tend to have that after having the world see a video of you knocking out your fiancee), so any team willing to sign him will have to be willing to sign on for the circus that will accompany him to town. Not to mention the stigma that comes from signing a very well known domestic abuser. And given the heightened tension and conversation surrounding the issue today – a conversation that is long overdue – teams must expect protests, boycotts, and a slew of bad press if they sign Rice.
To put it bluntly, Ray Rice is radioactive right now. He's free to sign anywhere, but the conventional wisdom says that if – and it's a big if – a team opts to sign the running back, it likely won't be this season. Most teams will likely – not definitely, but likely – give the situation a chance to cool off and quietly sign him sometime next summer, when the name Ray Rice is out of the headlines and doesn't necessarily invoke an automatic avalanche of anger and outrage.
But football is a funny business and if there is one thing we've learned, it's that if you've got the talent, no matter what you do, you will get a second chance. Probably a third, fourth, and fifth chance even. Many thought Mike Vick wouldn't get another chance to play, but he's currently starting in the NFL. Josh Brent accidentally killed his teammate but he's still playing. Adrian Peterson will be playing next season, more than likely.
The list goes on, but you get the point. Ray Rice may be a sensational case right now. And though what he did is repugnant beyond all belief, whether you agree with it or not, Rice will very likely get another shot in the NFL. Probably next season at the earliest. But with teams fighting for playoff spots, it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see him on the field again this season. Especially since he looked slimmer and quicker in pre-season then he had in seasons past. With a year off to rest his aging body, Rice could probably contribute a couple of solid seasons for his new team.
Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on the situation, with your belief about where he will wind up, or whether you think he should be granted another chance.
In the meantime, here are 10 possible spots Ray Rice may land...
10 Baltimore Ravens
9 Carolina Panthers
8 New York Jets
7 Tennessee Titans
6 Minnesota Vikings
5 Cleveland Browns
4 Buffalo Bills
3 New Orleans Saints
2 Indianapolis Colts
1 New England Patriots
Bill Belichick fancies himself to be the Great Rehabilitator. He's taken in known problem children and malcontents like Randy Moss, Darrelle Revis, Corey Dillon, and Aaron Hernandez. Okay, so the Aaron Hernandez deal blew up in his face – spectacularly – but Belichick has a track record of helping players turn their careers around. Sort of. In New England, Rice would exist under the iron fist, as well as the protection and media shield, Belichick provides all of his players. If he played by Mad Bill's rules, Rice could work his way back into the NFL's good graces by working hard, and most importantly, keeping quiet – or at least, work his way back into not being the most despised person in football. Despite the fact that Belichick currently has a thousand running backs on his roster, they're all getting touches and contributing to one of the hottest teams in football. It wouldn't be too difficult for him to work Rice into the rotation. Of all the possible landing spots, New England seems to be the best – and most likely – fit.
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