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Knights in the NFL (Sort of): Why does Ray Rice not have a team yet?

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a general consensus among Rutgers fans that the time is right to welcome Ray Rice back into the program. Fans are now able to look past his transgressions and accept him once again as a member of the Rutgers family. NFL executives, however, are still undecided. Rice has yet to even been invited to try out for a team, let alone get a contract. Like any notable NFL player on the market, there have been numerous rumors as to where Ray Rice might end up. The most recent team noted was the Buffalo Bills, though they have denied that and he most likely won't wind up with a familiar face in Rex Ryan.

Rice has been available for quite some time now, and they fact that he is receiving little to no interest infuriates me in a way. The only way to properly evaluate this situation is to compare him to other NFL players of a similar caliber who committed similar actions. But before we look at that, lets take a look at some of the reasons that Rice may be unemployed for a second straight Fall.

Ray Rice Messed Up

Ray Rice made countless mistakes. The obvious one is committing an act of domestic violence. The second is doing this in a place like an elevator, where you know you're going to be seen. The third is dragging your fiancee's body away like a dead corpse. Ray, you're better than that. As previously mentioned, this situation is all on Ray Rice's shoulders. As an NFL player, you are held to higher standards and need to be aware of that in all situations. At least Rice had the maturity to own up to his actions and do everything he could to make it better. At the same time, he was the first NFL player to be publicly prosecuted by the commissioner and thus he was made an example of.

Goodell Messed Up, Bad

Hypothetically speaking, of course, if Goodell suspended Rice for eight games back when this all happened, Ray Rice is still a Raven. Eight games seemed to be an agreeable standard for first-time offenders. However, Goodell dropped the ball and dished out a mere 2-game suspension. One thing led to another and Goodell had people calling for his job and Rice was the most hated athlete in the world. There is no denying that Goodell messed up and as a result dug himself and Rice into a very deep hole. As a matter of fact, Rice seems to be still stuck in that hole. Of course Goodell just has to suspend a few guys for the whole season and finally put some players on the Commissioner's Exempt List and once again he's the best commissioner ever. Goodell messed up and was forced to use Rice as an example and as a scapegoat so he could keep his job. It kinda sucks what Goodell did but you always have to keep in mind that Rice did in fact give Goodell the shovel (yes we're back to the hole analogy).

2013 Was Not a Good Year

When teams look to sign someone, production is always one of the first things that is looked at. Take a look at the drop off in production in 2013 compared to the rest of his career:

Graph courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/

Rice was averaging nearly half as many yards and touchdowns as his best years to go along with his YPC dropping by over 1. By the start of the 2015/16 season, Rice will be more than two years removed from his last productive season. That lack in production along with the baggage that comes with signing "the wife beater" are two major red flags that definitely scare NFL teams.

Greg Hardy?

As you may know, the Dallas Cowboys signed Greg Hardy to a one-year deal this offseason. Hardy was found guilty on two counts of domestic violence last summer and still got to play in a game before Goodell realized he had an even more vicious player still strapping up on Sundays. Compare the report on Hardy to what Rice did and decide for yourself who should and shouldn't be on an NFL roster. Yes, Hardy was an elite NFL talent in 2013 but he is only about a year younger than Rice and doesn't have as consistent of a track record. It just baffles me that Greg Hardy is on an NFL roster and Ray Rice is not. I guess everything is really bigger in Texas, including their tolerance for players with questionable character (Randy Gregory, Dez Bryant). Although Goodell does get some props for suspending Hardy for 10 games in 2015.

Ray McDonald Got a Second Chance

Ray McDonald was arrested for domestic violence in August and still had charges against him until November. With an acive case, Goodell and the 49ers organization allowed him to start at defensive before the charges were dismissed in November. McDonald played for all of 2014 and was signed to the Bears for this upcoming season. If this article is in fact truthful, it is pretty obvious the Bears didn't do their homework before signing him. McDonald and Hardy are two men who are more violent and ruthless than Rice but were more trustworthy for certain NFL teams to sign them. In addition, on the field, Ray Rice is far and away a much better player than McDonald.

C'mon Jerry Jones

If the infamous parking lot video was real, Dez Bryant is one lucky man. I can only imagine what would've happened if that got out. The details on that case are cloudy however, and the spotlight needs to be shone on Jerry Jones. Check out this article about Bryant' incident and notice Jerry Jones' quote: "Right now, as to our basic approach to all of the contracts that we're considering negotiating, off-the-field issues are not a consideration in any situation with any player as far as what we're doing with our contracts." Okay Jerry, so if Zack Martin is on trial for murder, he still gets his max contract, right?

Where Does Rice Stand

Combine all these factors and it all adds up to a boring future for the prized Rutgers star. It seems as if right now, there is a slim chance he returns to the NFL. Any rumors have seemingly been shot down and the rumor mill is once again very quiet. Don't get too down if you're rooting for Rice, though. The NFL is a league that changes a lot and there are many injuries. Maybe Ray Rice signs on to a practice squad or joins a 53-man roster as an emergency back. Never rule out a return, even when it seems as unlikely as it does now.

Rutgers fans forgive Rice and hope he is able to find an NFL home. We know better than anyone that Rice is a genuinely good guy and worked harder than ever to not let his mistake define him.