There's no telling where
Yes, like any team, the Ravens want to suit up players their fans can root for, and if the evidence in Rice's situation ends up being too ugly to bear, the Ravens would have no choice.
But a check of their history in these cases is instructive.
Fifteen years ago, Ray Lewis was in a terrible mess in Atlanta. He wound up bargaining a charge and was assessed a massive fine by the league. Did the Ravens cut him? No. They let the legal case unfold. They let the league do its thing. Then they put him back in the middle of their defense and won a Super Bowl a year later.
Jamal Lewis, the Ravens' all-time rushing leader, faced federal drug charges and spent four months in prison in 2005. Did the Ravens cut him? No, they let the legal case unfold. They let the league office do its thing. Then they gave him his job back. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards a year later.
The Ravens don't necessarily give every player such a long strand of rope. In the late 1990s, they parted way with a young safety named Ralph Staten after a handgun violation, a DUI and too many missed meetings.
But generally, their default position is to support their guys in tough times, especially if the player has built up a lot of goodwill in the organization, as Rice has with his community service and Pro Bowl performances.
That's not to condone what allegedly unfolded between Rice and his fiancée last weekend. Domestic violence is a terrible problem. It's never acceptable for a man to strike a woman – or a woman to strike a man for that matter.
But we don't know the entirety of what happened that evening, as opposed to what snippets of video seem to indicate. It's premature to make any judgments about what, in the end, is a terribly sad situation for Rice and his family. I wouldn't begin to speculate until more facts are gathered and presented.
Having said that, when I hear people clamoring for the Ravens just to cut him, I do understand the emotion. He didn't play well in 2013. This incident only adds to the perception that perhaps something has gone wrong.
But it would surprise me if the Ravens got that emotional. Their methodology is to gather as many facts as possible and then consider the context. Is there a pattern of such behavior? Is the player more trouble than he is worth?
The Ravens are in the business of winning football games, nothing else. Sure, they want to forge an upstanding reputation in the community, but taking moral stands or making judgments about their players' personal lives is not their thing. Their reputation is based mostly on whether they win.
Cutting Rice would cost them $14 million against the salary cap over the next two years, severely hampering their ability to field a winning team. That alone probably precludes them from parting ways with him. But even without that factored it, their history suggests they're more likely to take a deep breath, ride out the situation with Rice and then see if he can still help them on the field.
It was reported this week that the league's salary cap limit is now projected to be quite a bit higher in 2014 – $130 million or so, representing a seven percent increase.
Every team potentially benefits from this. They'll all have more room to retain their own players and grab others on the open market.
The Ravens stand to benefit more than most, I would argue. Their track record indicates that they're pretty good at navigating the cap and finding deals in the marketplace, i.e., getting the most bang for their buck.
Since they employ their share of good players and always spend to the limit, a lower cap has forced their hand in a lot of situations. Now, they might not have to make quite as many tough decisions. For instance, if this spike had occurred a year ago, they probably could have held onto Anquan Boldin. Imagine that.