This NFL offseason has already seen a few high-profile veteran running backs sign with new teams – like Frank Gore, who left San Francisco Indianapolis. But there’s one free agent running back still available, and he’s high-profile for all the wrong reasons.
We’re talking about Ray Rice, the disgraced Baltimore Ravens running back whose career took a nosedive after he was caught on tape attacking his then-fiancé (now his wife).
The NFL was lenient at first, but the league changed its mind in a big way when footage of the attack hit the airwaves. Ray Rice was suspended for the entire season. The Ravens dropped him. Sitting out a whole season for an off-the-field issue the year after he’d had a disappointing season, Ray Rice looked like he was going to be out of the league forever.
And he still might, but desperation among a few teams in the league has given rise to rumors that he might be back on the field this year. Here are three teams that might sign him, ranked from least to most likely.
The Houston Texans are one of two Texas NFL teams that have been connected to Ray Rice in recent weeks. Rumor has it that the Texans were considering Rice as a way to help their injured running back corps. The Texans, though, are trying to shut down speculation.
Their owner has gone on record saying he doesn’t think that Ray Rice would be a good “fit” for his locker room, adding that the running backs he already has on his roster are “better,” anyway. Of course, what owners and GMs say and what actually happens are different things, and the Texans are looking for ways to make up for the loss of Arian Foster, who will miss up to half the year while recovering from surgery.
The Cowboys lost their star running back, DeMarco Murray, to their division rivals in free agency. Now they need to come up with a way to make up for that blow to their running game, and betting low on a resurgence from Ray Rice could make financial sense. Of course, there are other reasons not to sign Rice – he’ll be a massive distraction, and there’s the question of value, too.
But Cowboys under owner Jerry Jones has never been particularly afraid of distractions, and rumors have connected them to running backs with off-the-field problems before (they were considered a potential landing spot for Adrian Peterson back when it wasn’t clear if the running back would return to the Vikings). Rice-to-Cowboys rumors should be taken with a grain of salt, but maybe not too much salt.
Cleveland has been rumored to be considering Ray Rice for a while now. Their running game is lousy (and has been exposed as such in the preseason so far), and they aren’t a team that shies away from off-the-field issues (have you heard of Johnny Manziel?). The Browns haven’t done a whole lot to quiet it down – the GM has only called discussion “premature,” and the owner is busy telling reporters that he’d be “okay with” his team signing Rice. Those aren’t the kind of statements that will end the Rice-to-Cleveland rumors.
It is, to borrow a phrase from their cagey GM, “premature” to say that Rice going to the Browns is a sure thing. At the same time, though, there’s little doubt that Cleveland is the most likely landing spot for Rice if he makes a return to the league.
In all likelihood, the Browns will want to kick the tires on some less notorious free agents before they settle on Rice. But don’t be surprised if they end up taking a risk on the disgraced back.