Ray Rice

AFC North Notes: Bengals, McCarron, Steelers

It’s imperative that the Bengals gauge the A.J. McCarron market correctly this offseason, Paul Dehner Jr. and Jim Owczarski of the Enquirer write. Unless the quarterback wins his grievance case, he’ll be a restricted free agent, meaning that the team can attach a second-round tender to him and likely collect on a valuable draft pick.

In theory, the Bengals could use the first-round tender ($4MM+), but that would place him in the upper tier of backup quarterbacks not on rookie contracts. Last year, only three such QBs earned more – Mike Glennon, Nick Foles, and Matt Schaub. Rival clubs would be willing to take on McCarron for that salary, but it’s hard to see a team also sacrificing a first-round pick in that scenario.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier was officially released from the rehabilitation clinic two months after having spinal stabilization surgery, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link) details. Shazier will now begin outpatient rehabilitation and still has a long road ahead of him, but it’s a very positive step forward for the 25-year-old.
  • It’s still not clear whether Dean Pees was forced out of his role as the Ravens‘ defensive coordinator, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun writes. Pees, 68, retired at the end of the 2017 season only to accept a job as the Titans’ defensive coordinator four weeks later. It’s possible that Pees painted himself into a corner by making his pending retirement known to members of the organization ahead of time, setting the table for Don “Wink” Martindale to take over as the new DC this year. Regardless of how it went down, Zrebiec argues that change can be a good thing. Pees isn’t necessarily responsible for all of the Ravens’ defensive woes, but the team did have a handful of late-game, late-season meltdowns under his watch.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) expects Eric DeCosta to reach out to Ray Rice to join the team in some capacity when he takes over as Ravens GM in 2019. DeCosta will take over as the Ravens’ GM in 2019 with current GM Ozzie Newsome moving to a consultant role.

Extra Points: Seahawks, Lynch, Browns, Rice

While it doesn’t sound like the Seahawks are going to add quarterback Colin Kaepernick, starter Russell Wilson indicated that he’d welcome the former division rival.

“I haven’t had the chance to be around Colin too much, but the times I have he’s been great,” Wilson said (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). “Obviously, I think first of all he’s a really, really good football player. He’s made a lot of good plays in a lot of big games and done a lot of good things. I have tons of respect for him in that way. And then in terms of everything else he stood for, I think he was trying to stand for the right things, he was trying to stand for equality. And so I respect that too, as well. . . . I wouldn’t have any issue at all. As many good players as we could have, the better.”

Reports indicated that the Seahawks weren’t going to sign Kaepernick because they believe he deserves a starting role, and there were whispers that the two sides also couldn’t agree on a monetary value for the quarterback. However, Florio wonders if Pete Carroll and the organization may be trying to avoid a controversy.

There have been murmurs that Wilson hasn’t received the full support of his teammates. If the Seahawks faced any adversity next year, Florio wonders if some members of the Seahawks would push for Kaepernick to take over the starting role.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • According to ESPN.com’s Sheil Kapadia, Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch has several performance-based incentives in his contract that could add $5.5MM to his salary in 2017 and $2MM in 2018. As the writer explains, the running back could earn this extra money via incentives for “rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, the Raiders making the playoffs, Lynch making the Pro Bowl, Lynch earning regular-season MVP honors and Lynch earning Super Bowl MVP honors.”
  • The Browns acquistion of Calvin Pryor does provide some much-needed depth at safety, but ESPN.com’s Pat McManamon notes that the team is still “one player short of a starting unit at linebacker.” There have been whispers that the Browns could utilize Pryor and rookie Jabrill Peppers in a 4-2-5 alignment, with Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey serving as the linebackers. However, before the team commits to this strategy, McManamon believes they have to determine whether Pryor is even capable of starting.
  • After having served as an unofficial coach for New Rochelle High School’s football team over the past three years, former Pro Bowler Ray Rice is now the squad’s official running backs coach, according to Josh Thomson of Lohud.com. The 30-year-old will also assist with the secondary, his defensive position during his time with the Huguenots. “Ray has been around so much that there’s more buzz when visiting teams see him and when visiting parents see him or when we’re out in public,” said coach Lou DiRienzo. “These kids are around him all the time. He’s Ray to them. A celebrity is not in their midst.”

Ray Rice Takes High School Coaching Job

After three years away from the NFL, it sounds like Ray Rice might be pursuing a different career path. The former Ravens running back has taken a job as a running backs coach at Don Bosco Prep High School in New Jersey, a source tells Dianna Russini of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Ray Rice

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Don Bosco is one of the country’s top high school football programs and the Bergen County powerhouse recently shook things up by parting ways with Greg Toal and replacing him with former Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel. Teel, in turn, has hired his former Scarlet Knights teammate.

Last month, Rice indicated that he would not give up on his goal of returning to the NFL. His new coaching gig is probably not a white flag towards a return to playing, but Rice may be coming to terms with the fact that he won’t be getting a call. He may also view the high school coaching job as a good way to rebuild his public persona.

Even putting the obvious issues aside, Rice is a 30-year-old running back who didn’t look all that great when he was on the field in 2013. The New York native averaged just 3.1 yards per carry in his last NFL season, a far cry from his career-high 5.3 yards per carry mark in 2009. Ultimately, signing Rice would bring about a public relations firestorm that just isn’t worth it.

Extra Points: Foster, Panthers, Cowboys

Two Alabama stalwarts are making the pre-draft visit rounds. Reuben Foster had dinner with Bears brass on Sunday night and visited the team’s facility today, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (on Twitter). Chicago holds the No. 3 pick in the draft. Although, the Bears spent upper-echelon inside linebacker money on Danny Trevathan and Jurrell Freeman last offseason.

Meanwhile, former Foster teammate Cam Robinson met with the Bills and Panthers. A Jaguars stop is next for the first-round tackle prospect, Rapoport reports. The Carolina visit occurred today. Robinson, Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk and Utah’s Garrett Bolles headline the tackle class.

Here’s more from around the league.

  • Speaking of Panthers tackles, Matt Kalil‘s arrival in Charlotte will return Michael Oher to the right tackle position, should he be cleared to return to action. He and 2015 fourth-rounder Daryl Williams will compete for the right tackle job, David Newton of ESPN.com notes. Oher remains in the concussion protocol after suffering what turned out to be a severe head injury early last season. The 30-year-old Oher has two years remaining on the 2016 extension he signed. Oher started at left tackle for the Panthers beginning at the start of the 2015 season.
  • Zach Brown‘s Dolphins visit began tonight and will likely continue into Tuesday, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports (on Twitter). Brown is arguably the best linebacker remaining on the UFA market. He worked with Fins linebackers coach Frank Bush while with the Titans.
  • Recently added Bengals linebacker Kevin Minter will begin his Cincinnati career as a middle ‘backer, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. Minter played as a 3-4 inside ‘backer with the Cardinals. However, it’s possible he could see time on the strong side in the Bengals’ 4-3 set. Vontaze Burfict and Vincent Rey are the likely incumbents set to flank Minter. Karlos Dansby returned to the Cardinals, beginning the teams’ indirect swap of non-rush ‘backers and leaving a bit of a hole on Cincinnati’s second level.
  • Jelani Jenkins figures to be Malcolm Smith‘s replacement as the Raiders‘ weakside linebacker, Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com notes. Smith played as the Raiders’ weakside man for two seasons and was the team’s most utilized linebacker during that span, operating as a nickel player and a 3-4 inside man when Oakland shifted into those looks.
  • Kellen Moore‘s one-year Cowboys re-up is for $775K, Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports (on Twitter). Both Williams and the Telegram’s Clarence Hill report the Cowboys did not want to pay nearly what Josh McCown received from the Jets ($6MM fully guaranteed) to fill their impending backup quarterback vacancy. Dak Prescott will make $540K in base salary this season.
  • Damontre Moore signed a two-year, $1.66MM deal with the Cowboys, one that contains a $100K signing bonus, Todd Archer of ESPN.com reports.
  • Ray Rice remains focused on trying to re-enter the NFL. The former Ravens Pro Bowl running back said today his absence isn’t because he no longer has the ability. “The reason why I’m not playing football, you do the dots,” the now-30-year-old Rice said from Torrey Smith‘s charity basketball game in Baltimore, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. “It ain’t because I’m a bad football player. That’s just keeping it real. I’m never giving up and never giving in.” Rice hasn’t played since the 2013 season. The video of him striking his then-fiancee, now-wife in an elevator that emerged in September of 2014 led to the Ravens cutting him. Rice’s incident figures to come up again as teams decide whether or not to take a chance on Joe Mixon, who was also seen punching a woman on camera.

Lions Uninterested In Ray Rice

After the Lions placed running back Ameer Abdullah on injured reserve Wednesday, Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead reported that the team was considering signing free agent Ray Rice (Twitter link). That won’t happen, however.

Ray Rice “We are NOT signing Ray Rice, never have even discussed him. 1000% false,” a Lions executive told ESPN’s Adam Schefter via text message (Twitter link).

The 29-year-old Rice is familiar with Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, who was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator from 2012-13. Those were Rice’s final two years in Baltimore, where he spent six seasons and rushed for over 1,100 yards in four individual campaigns. Rice has been out of the league since the Ravens released him in September 2014, when video of him knocking out his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator surfaced. Rice has seemingly cleaned up his act off the field since, leading Schefter to report on opening weekend that the three-time Pro Bowler could receive another chance sometime this year.

Rice’s potential next opportunity won’t come with the Lions, who are wary of adding any figures with controversial pasts to their team, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. Rookie general manager Bob Quinn said during the offseason that Detroit wanted no part of players connected to “domestic violence and dangerous weapons,” but he then went against his word in signing tight end Andrew Quarless in August. Quarless previously earned a two-game ban for discharging a gun in public in July 2015. That suspension is now over for Quarless, whom the Lions released this week.

Without Abdullah, the 1-1 Lions are set to rely on Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner at running back. They did work out one of their former backs, Joique Bell, on Tuesday, though no deal has materialized. Aside from Rice and Bell, other notable rushers who are currently unemployed include Karlos Williams, who’s halfway through a four-game suspension for substance abuse, and C.J. Spiller.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Rice, Saints, Broncos, Bills

If free agent running back Ray Rice is going to return to the NFL, it could be now or never, opines Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Several teams are dealing with injuries in the backfield, and that could open the door for Rice to sign somewhere and see his first action since 2013. Rice has been out of the league since the Ravens released him in September 2014, which came after video of him knocking out his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator surfaced. The league also suspended Rice, but he won an appeal that lifted the ban in November 2014. Teams have still stayed away from Rice, who has seemingly cleaned up his act off the field over the past couple years. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier this month of a “growing sense” that the 29-year-old would get another chance, and Florio observes that it could come soon.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Saints aren’t thrilled with big-money tight end Coby Fleener‘s early season production, writes Christopher Dabe of NOLA.com. Quarterback Drew Brees has targeted Fleener 12 times in two games, but the former Colt has caught just three passes for 35 yards. “I think there’s been moments and yet it hasn’t been as consistent as we’d like yet,” head coach Sean Payton said Monday. Fleener, 27, combined for 183 receptions and 17 touchdowns over his first four seasons, leading the Saints to sign him to a five-year, $36MM deal in free agency.
  • Broncos right tackle Donald Stephenson suffered a calf injury that should keep him out 2-3 weeks, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Fortunately for Denver, he did not suffer a tear, as some initially feared.
  • The Bills worked out a pair of free agents, tight end E.J. Bibbs and offensive tackle Laurence Gibson, on Monday, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN. Of the two, only Bibbs has NFL experience. He signed with the Browns last year as an undrafted free agent from Iowa State and appeared in seven games as a rookie, catching one pass.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

“Growing Sense” That Ray Rice Plays In 2016

There is a “growing sense” that embattled running back Ray Rice, who has not appeared in a game since December 2013, will get another chance to suit up for an NFL club, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets. Schefter’s sources further indicate that such an opportunity could come sometime later this season.

Ray Rice

At this point, it is unnecessary to rehash the events that precipitated Rice’s suspension, which precipitated his release from the Ravens, which precipitated his being blackballed by the league. It is fair to believe that, if Rice’s last season in the league had been up to his usual standards, his exile may have ended fairly quickly. However, in 2013, Rice was running behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league and was also battling some injury problems, and he ended up posting just a 3.1 yards per carry average, easily the lowest mark in his career.

Rice has remained patient over the course of the past several years, and he has repeatedly expressed remorse while remaining steadfast in his belief that he will get another chance to play. He has been on the speaking circuit as he attempts to keep his name on the front burner and as he attempts to reach as many young athletes as possible. He was recently asked to speak to the Rutgers football team, and he also shared his lessons with the Ravens’ 2016 rookie class. He even stated back in July that if a team is willing to take a chance on him, he will donate every game check to charities working to combat domestic violence.

Schefter added during his appearance on Sunday NFL Countdown that Rice has been staying in shape and has the league’s backing. In fact, the NFL is also considering Rice for a role in the league office once his playing career is officially over (which, if Schefter’s sources are right, may not be anytime soon).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

AFC North Notes: RGIII, Browns, Ray Rice

Will RGIII succeed in Cleveland? Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report asked around about the free agent acquisition and league execs were not optimistic about how the QB will perform. "<strong

RG3 is going to bury Hue [Jackson,” one GM said.

Hue is going to find out that RG3 isn’t coachable,” another front-office executive said.

RG3 is going to drag Hue down with him,” one scout said.

Griffin was a superstar early on with the Redskins, but things fizzled out for him in a hurry as his relationship with coach Mike Shanahan also went south. Under coach Jay Gruden, he watched Kirk Cousins go from understudy to undisputed starter, ending his D.C. run in bizarre fashion. Still, the Browns see something in the former Baylor star and their commitment to him this offseason clearly demonstrates that. In the spring, the Browns inked him to a two-year pact worth $15MM, with a signing bonus of $3.5MM and $6.75MM in total guarantees.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Will former Ravens running back Ray Rice get another chance in the NFL? Many are skeptical of that, but Rice is staying optimistic. “In my heart of hearts,” Rice told ESPN’s Mike & Mike (video link), “it will happen.” Of course, teams are wary of taking on the PR hell storm that would come with signing Rice and it also doesn’t help that his last season played in the NFL was lackluster. For what it’s worth, Rice blames his 2013 struggles on a torn muscle which has since healed up.
  • Ladarius Green signed a four-year, $20MM contract with the Steelers but has not practiced a down with them yet after January ankle surgery. With that in mind, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wonders if the Steelers made a mistake with their major free agent signing. As shown on Roster Resource, the Steelers’ TE depth chart beyond Green leaves a lot to be desired. Jesse James has minimal game experience, Xavier Grimble never has played an NFL game, and Michael Cooper and Paul Lang are undrafted rookies. H-back David Johnson has experience, but mostly as a blocker. If Green is going to miss significant time, one has to wonder if the Steelers will be in the market for a tight end addition.
  • Will Desmond Bryant receive his $6MM base salary for the 2016 season? He may have to battle it out with the Browns.

Photo courtesy of PFR on Instagram.

Latest On Ray Rice

Ray Rice is desperate for another chance in football and he’s taking a drastic step to get the attention of NFL teams. The embattled running back says that if a team is willing to take a chance on him, he will donate every game check to charities working to combat domestic violence, Tom Pelissero of USA Today writes. Ray Rice

All the scrutiny that I’ve got, it was deserved, because domestic violence is a horrible thing,” said the three-time Pro Bowl running back. “Me donating my salary is something that’ll be from the heart for me. I only want to play football so I can end it the right way for my kids and for the people that really believed in me. But I know there’s a lot of people affected by domestic violence, and every dollar helps. It’s raising awareness. People need homes. People need shelter when they’re in a crucial situation. I’ve donated a lot of money to charities, but I had a situation where it was a national crisis. I’m not saying I’d be (donating the salary) to get on the field, but it’s something that will show where my heart is. My heart is about finishing the right way and helping people along the way.”

In February 2014, Rice assaulted his now wife Janay Palmer at an Atlantic City casino. Initially, Rice was suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season. However, when security cam footage was released, Rice’s ugly incident made national headlines and that attention pushed the NFL to suspend the tailback indefinitely. Rice eventually had the indefinite suspension overturned on appeal, but no NFL teams showed interest in signing him after the ban was lifted.

As Rice looks for NFL employment, he faces the unfortunate double whammy of being a social pariah and a 29-year-old running back. In 2013, which currently stands as his final season, the Rutgers product averaged a paltry 3.1 yards per carry. In January, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan acknowledged that Rice’s name had come up internally, though he deemed a signing to be unlikely.

As a seventh-year veteran, the minimum salary for Rice in 2016 would be $885K. Rice’s last NFL contract paid $25MM over the first two years and Pelissero hears that Rice is financially secure.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC South Notes: O’Brien, Titans, Khan

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien had a lot of good things to say about his new additions to the coaching staff. Since the end of the season, the organization has added special-teams coordinator Larry Izzo, receivers coach Sean Ryan and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver.

“Larry came highly recommended to me from a number of people,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “When we brought him in to interview, I thought he did an excellent job. He was able to really articulate really his plan for special teams and how he saw things.

“He had studied our tape. He kind of knew what we were doing. I was very impressed with him. I had known him as a player. I had never coached with him. I think he’s going to be a good addition to our staff.”

Check out the link to see what O’Brien also had to say about Ryan, the former Giants receivers coach, and Weaver, the former Browns defensive line coach. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some more notes from around the AFC South…

  • The Titans will have some interesting decisions to make with the top overall pick in the draft, writes Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com. The writer currently opines that the team should look to trade the pick for extra assets, although he notes that that’s easier said than done.
  • Wyatt writes that the team could use help on the offensive line and at running back, although the writer wouldn’t be a fan of signing Ray Rice. Wyatt also points to the secondary and linebackers as areas that could use some reinforcement.
  • At the Jaguars‘ State of the Franchise meeting, owner Shad Khan was adamant that the franchise will be staying in Jacksonville. “This is a community that has supported this franchise faithfully and impressively for over two decades,” he said (via Ryan O’Halloran of Jacksonville.com). “And we don’t want to just exist here, we want to flourish here.”