Ray Rice may have his legal troubles and NFL suspension behind him, but as he continues to find out while testing the tepid waters of free agency, which officially opens March 10, that doesn't mean he'll ever play football again.
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No Reported Visits
Thursday, March 26
"With April quickly approaching, Rice has had no reported talks or visits with any teams. Defensive linemen Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald were signed this month after they faced domestic violence charges, but Rice is still searching for a job after being reinstated four months ago," reported ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley.
Lions Not Expressing Interest
Thursday, March 26
Hensley stated the Detroit Lions would be a good fit for Rice after the team parted with Reggie Bush. However, Hensley provided a statement from Lions head coach Jim Caldwell stating he doesn't foresee a reunion with Rice:
"I don't foresee that, to be plain and simple. There has to be a need and a fit in all areas. At this point in time, he's not a fit for us."
Caldwell said he believes some team will sign Rice, and Harbaugh hopes that will be the case.
"I still support the Rice family, and Ray Rice as a friend and want to see what's best for him," he said. "Like anybody you've been close to, you want things to work out well for them. That's the way we feel about Janay and Ray."
Rice Hopeful He'll Get Second Chance in NFL
Saturday, Feb. 28
Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun provided comments from Ray Rice, who spoke about his future in the NFL:
I'm optimistic that I'll get a second chance," Rice said. "I don't think this boils down to whether I can play football or not. Obviously I know that. I just think there's so much more that comes with it. I know the PR side of it will be tough. I understand that.
I don't want my career to be defined by this one moment," Rice said. "I've been smart with money and the NFL is a great-paying game, but I really want to get back out there for my pride and to be able to leave the game with dignity. I don't ever want to feel exiled out because I wasn't that guy. ... I know I'm not ready to call it quits yet.
No Team Has Called Rice Since November
Monday, Feb. 16
As noted by Hensley, Rice is yet to receive much formal interest from teams since his reinstatement:
In terms of his football career, Rice may have to come to grips that this is farewell. No team has called Rice since his reinstatement in late November, and it's a distinct possibility that no team signs him this offseason.
Rice, 28, regained eligibility on Nov. 28 when an independent arbitrator overruled the league's indefinite suspension of the former Pro Bowler. Initially suspended for two games after pleading not guilty to striking his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator, commissioner Roger Goodell extended the ban when TMZ leaked video of the incident. A judge ruled the second suspension violated league rules banning double jeopardy.
The Ravens, who released Rice within hours of the video surfacing, settled a grievance for back pay out of court in January.
With the litigation behind him, Rice has gone to work attempting to resume his football career. In an open letter provided to AWilson, Rice thanked the city for the last seven years and claimed "this is not a farewell or goodbye."
NFL teams have been more skeptical.
“It’s a league of second chances, but it’s still a tough sell for Ray,” an NFC general manager told Wilson. “I don’t think Ray will get offered a lot of money. Despite everything, I still think he’ll get a shot. There may be some upside even though his production was starting to decline. It’s a crowded market for running backs.”
A three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, the last reel of tape teams have on Rice is far from peak-level performance. He rushed for 660 yards and four touchdowns in 2013, averaging 3.1 yards per carry—more than a full yard lower than his career mark.
Football Outsiders ranked Rice last among the 47 qualifying running backs in its DYAR metric (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) and 46th in its DVOA metric (defense-adjusted value over average), one spot ahead of then-teammate Bernard Pierce. Pro Football Focus' grading system was not any kinder, placing Rice dead last among 55 eligible running backs. Rice was more than seven points worse than 54th-place Darren McFadden.
Given his advancing age, declining production and increased notoriety for the wrong things, it'll be interesting to see when or if teams start giving him serious consideration.
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