Nov 5, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Suspended NFL running back Ray Rice arrives with his wife, Janay Rice for his appeal hearing on his indefinite suspension from the NFL. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY
Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is now reportedly able to sign with any NFL team after winning his appeal of an indefinite suspension by the National Football League. Rice received that suspension following the release of an elevator surveillance video showing the 27-year old punching his then fiancee in Atlantic City.
Now that Rice is on the free agency market, what are the chances the he lands with the Dallas Cowboys? And if he did, how would Cowboys fans react? Apparently, they like the idea.
In a poll the Landry Hat conducted earlier this month, 71% of the readership said they would welcome the seventh-year veteran in Dallas. And it comes at no surprise as the former second round pick out of Rutgers in 2008 had four-straight 1,000 rushing yard seasons prior to last year. Rice is also an excellent recevier out of the backfield, recording 100+ receiving targets twice in his six-year career.
As far as the questions if the Cowboys could actually use him, that depends on how you feel about the health of DeMarco Murray. The NFL’s leading rusher has carried the ball a whopping 288 times so far this season for 1,427 yards. That’s 46 more carries than the next highest running back in the NFL. And that’s already more carries through Week 13 than Murray has ever had in three injury-plagued seasons in the NFL.
Part of the reason Murray’s number has been called so much this season is that Dallas’ coaching staff simply doesn’t trust their other running backs. Primary back-up Lance Dunbar is averaging less than two carries a game. And troubled running back Joseph Randle has played 44 less snaps than Dunbar so far this season.
Another factor in a possible signing of Rice in Dallas is Murray’s expiring contract. Due to his success this season, the fourth-year back will likely have higher salary demands than the Cowboys will be willing to pay. If that’s the case, Dallas could explore signing a player like Rice to not only help them in relief of their workhorse back, but also as possible leverage in contract negotiations. Having a player of Rice’s caliber on the roster also gives the Cowboys insurance if they are unable or unwilling to retain Murray this offseason.
Obviously, there are some big downsides to signing a player like Rice. Any team who decides to retain his services can expect a public relations’ nightmare as boycotts and pickets are sure to be coming their way due to the nature of his past. But Dallas seems well suited for such public scrutiny.
The Cowboys are already the lightning rod for the NFL. Earlier this season linebacker Michael Sam, the first openly gay player ever to be drafted into the NFL, was signed to their practice squad. Although the situations are totally different, the massive media attention is likely to be similar. And after an initial media rush, things quieted down tremendously around Sam during his time in Dallas. So much so, his release in October was fairly uneventful.
But signing a player like Rice also seems counter-culture to what the Cowboys, and more specifically head coach Jason Garrett, have been trying to build here in Dallas for the past four seasons. And that is a roster of talented, high-character players. But Rice was a popular, valued and trusted member of the Ravens prior to this incident. And after meeting face-to-face with the young man, the Cowboys may decide he’s worth giving a second chance. It appears Cowboys’ fans certainly think so.
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