One year after the Baltimore Ravens cut Ray Rice following a leaked video showed him knocking his wife unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator, Rice is beginning to draw interest from multiple NFL teams.
Most recently, according to SI.com’s Don Banks the Cleveland Browns have reportedly discussed the possibility of signing Rice and reuniting him with Browns’ running back coach Wilbert Montgomery — Rice’s position coach during his six years in Baltimore.
As Banks explains, during Rice’s time working with Montgomery, he made 3 Pro Bowls and rushed for 9,214 total yards from scrimmage from ’08-’13, the fourth most in the NFL during that span.
Montgomery has also been extremely critical of the three current Cleveland running backs, suggesting to ESPN.com that Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell, and rookie Duke Johnson — the three backs competing for the starting role — all didn’t arrive at training camp in particularly good shape.
“The disappointing thing was that all those guys approaching here and not being in tip-top shape,” he told ESPN’s Pat McManamon. “Nobody wants the role,”
The combination of Cleveland’s less-than-ideal running back situation and Montgomery’s successful history with Rice has the Browns considering Rice.
In that same SI.com piece, Banks asked Browns head coach Mike Pettine the inevitable questions regarding possibly signing Rice: does his tumultuous history render him untouchable? Does the possible PR nightmare make Rice worth it?
“I don’t think it’s gotten to that point, to say, ‘Hey, I’d kind of be comfortable with it,'” Pettine said. “But I think it would get to that point if we arrived at it from a football standpoint, then asked that question. Instead of working the process backwards. Why bother with asking the question if the need never presents itself?”
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio said on PFT Live earlier this week that the Browns are very tentatively expressing interest as a way to gauge the possible scrutiny around Rice. From Florio:
“It sounds to me like a trial balloon. See how the media reacts, see how the fans react. See what kind of blowback they would get for bringing in Ray Rice in light of that very notorious videotape. And if they don’t get a strong negative reaction, Ray Rice may be a member of the Cleveland Browns.”
The Browns publicly, but cautiously, expressing interest in Rice marks a growing trend among teams that have seen their running back situations grow more and more dire over the first two weeks of training camp.
After Texans’ RB Arian Foster went down in training camp with yet another groin injury, speculation leaked that the Texans were interested in signing Rice, particularly because Texans owner Bob McNair has a history of picking up players with supposed character issues. Ultimately, the Houston Chronicle reported that McNair wasn’t going to pursue Rice.
Earlier this week, Rodney Harrison suggested that the Cowboys — another team with RB issues — should sign Rice.
“He’s a Super Bowl winner, why wouldn’t you want a guy like that in your locker room?” Harrison asked Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.
Rice is still a free agent and may stay unsigned through the start of training camp if teams decide the blowback is too strong. But if one thing is clear about NFL teams, it’s that above all else they prioritise winning football games and selling tickets — if someone decides Rice can help a franchise do this, don’t be shocked to see him on the football field soon.
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