It's been quite an offseason for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. After a underwhelming 2013 season, Rice was involved in an altercation with his fiancee at an Atlantic City casino. According to reports, a fight ensued and Rice allegedly struck the woman and knocked her out.
As it turned out, his then-fiancee Janay Palmer, he would later marry. Since then, Rice has been accepted into a diversionary program that could allow him to eventually clear his record.
Former NFL counsel David Cornwell believes Rice could still face a suspension despite avoiding trial on assault charges.
"I think the problem that Ray Rice has is the video and that created such a public outrage," said Cornwell, who doesn't represent Rice.. "He has no other prior incidents and, all things being equal, he probably would be looking at a fine from the NFL under normal circumstances. The video makes it a little more complicated.
"That's what could get it out of the fine range and into a suspension because the league will respond to the unique aspect of the video and the fact that there's a female involved. Those are complicating factors. The NFL has ignored plea bargains and things of that nature in the past."
As Cornwell said, video exists showing Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator after he supposedly struck her.
This situation, along with his poor play in 2013 and the fact that the RB position is so devalued now, could lead to his release in a normal situation. Of the 141 running backs Pro Football Focus graded in 2013, Rice's -16.0 grade was the worst of them all.
Rice signed a five-year, $35 million contract before the 2012 NFL season, and he's set to have a cap hit of $8.75 million in 2014, according to Spotrac. At age 27 with 1,800 career plays from scrimmage, he doesn't need to be getting that kind of money, as his play could worsen this coming season.
But according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, cutting Rice now would result in a $5.5 million salary-cap hit in 2014. Even a post-June 1 designation won't help, as Rice would then count $9.5 million in dead money in 2015.
For now, he'll be on the Ravens roster in 2014, but he may not be on the field Week 1 when they host the Cincinnati Bengals.