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Late For Work 2/21: Ray Rice Suspension Possible

Posted Feb 21, 2014

Character will be factor. Can Pierce be counted on? Elam working at finish line? New $130 million salary cap.

Ray Rice Suspension Possible

Police say they have video evidence of running back Ray Rice striking his fiancée Janay Palmer with his hand and rendering her unconscious, according to Sports Illustrated's Robert Klemko.

"Expect a suspension," Klemko tweeted.

Don't be so sure, says ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio, noting that Rice is a first-time violator and the league's Personal Conduct Policy primarily targets repeat offenders. He says that while this reported video evidence would complicate things, a suspension for a first offense remains "very rare."

Several complex factors will be at play as the league approaches the situation.

Among them is the goodwill Rice has built up as one of the most high-character players on the team, but also the increased sensitivity in the league at large due to recent events, says ESPN's Adam Schefter in the video below. The Richie Incognito bullying situation in Miami and NFL prospect Michael Sam announcing that he's gay could play a factor in the league's aggressiveness.

Former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick explained on Fox News' "Hannity" last night, that from a team perspective, it is wise to "let the process play out" and allow all the facts to  come to light before rushing to judgment.

"One of the toughest things right now – and I still live in the Baltimore-DC area – of all the players on the Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins, Ray Rice would be the last one anyone would have any inkling that something like this could happen," Billick said.

"He's been an absolute stalwart on the team – on and off the field – he's been a stalwart in the community. That's where I think some of the hesitation and disbelief comes. This is totally incongruent with the Ray Rice that everyone has come to know. But obviously seeing the footage [of Rice carrying his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator] this is very, very serious and both the league and the Baltimore Ravens will take it as such."

In the event that Rice is suspended, the team would get a rebate – in cash and cap – in the amount of the total game checks lost by the player during the suspension, according to Brian McFarland of Russell Street Report.

"In Rice's case, a suspension would cost him $235,294 per game from his base salary of $4M and the team would get a cap credit in that amount," McFarland wrote. "The amount of any corresponding bonus forfeiture would depend on the length of the suspension. …In the event of such a suspension, the Ravens could receive a bonus forfeiture of $750K (25% of his $3M 2014 Signing Bonus proration) assuming Rice is forced to miss 4 games or less.

"It is important to note that bonus forfeiture is completely at the discretion of the team and not automatic. So, whether the Ravens were to pursue recouping some of Rice's bonus would entirely be up to them, but they have done so with lesser players and lesser offenses in the past."

Rice was scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, but it was postponed after the police department requested the prosecutor's office to get involved in the case. The new date has not been set.

Even though the legal proceedings have been delayed, Billick noted that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell does not have to wait to implement his own disciplinary action.

"I can imagine they will be very aggressive depending on exactly what the charge is and how it plays out," Billick said. "It's important to remember that the players do have certain rights, but the league, and in particular Roger Goodell, has a wide variety of options available to him in the conduct detrimental to the league. He actually doesn't have to wait for any sentencing, he doesn't have to wait for a trial for that matter, before he puts sanctions on Ray Rice."

Can Ravens Count On Pierce?

If Rice is suspended – and that is certainly still up in the air – the Ravens would likely turn to backup Bernard Pierce to carry a large portion of the rushing duties.

Pierce is coming off a season where he dealt with injuries and averaged only 2.9 yards per run, which was less effective than Rice. Pierce has managed to not miss a game in his two-year career, but he has dealt with injuries to his ankle, toe, knee, hamstring and thigh. He also had offseason surgery to repair his rotator cuff.

He had more success his rookie year, rushing for 532 yards on 108 carries (4.9 yards per carry average).

Matt Vensel wonders: Can the Ravens depend on Pierce should Rice be absent for an extended period of time?

"[A]s a runner, Pierce could likely be an adequate starter if he runs with the patience and purpose he showed as a rookie and if the guys in front of him do a better job of run blocking," Vensel wrote. "Of course, Pierce would also have to stay healthy while carrying most of the load out of the backfield, something he hasn't gotten a chance to do at the NFL level.

"Depending on what happens with Rice in the coming months, Pierce could get that opportunity this fall."

Matt Elam Working At Finish Line?

What the?

Is Ravens safety Matt Elam working an entry-level retail job?

It sure looks like it in the Instagram photos below (mobile users tap View in Browser" at the top of the page). 

"Newest addition to the squad @finishline in Gainesville, Fl is MATT ELAM," shoefanatic863 wrote with this Instagram photo.

"Just saw MATT ELAM in the mall almost had a heart attack!! I'm Trynna make it where he at!! I hope god bless me," wrote goofy_goober101.

Elam signed a four-year contract with the Ravens last year reportedly worth $6.767 million. But staying humble with some hard work with an hourly wage never hurt anyone.

Elam is gaining what I believe is a great reputation for being smart (frugal?) with his money. He also saved a reported $200,000 by not hiring an agent and negotiating his own contract with the Ravens.

Report: Salary Cap To Rise To $130 Million

The NFL will raise its salary cap to about $130 million, about a 5 percent increase from $123 million last season, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

That means General Manager Ozzie Newsome will have a few more million at his disposal as he navigates a crucial offseason in which he looks to add players to his roster.

The added money to the cap means the Ravens would have just under $20 million in salary cap room, according to WNST's Luke Jones.

Jones thinks it could also be good news for potential Ravens salary-cap causalities.

"The extra $3.7 million in space could alter general manager Ozzie Newsome's outlook on several potential cap casualties such as linebacker Jameel McClain, punter Sam Koch, and fullback Vonta Leach as well as provide more wiggle room to re-sign unrestricted free agents such as tight end Dennis Pitta, left tackle Eugene Monroe, and linebacker Daryl Smith and pursue other possible free-agent targets," Jones wrote. "Of course, players and agents are very much aware of the news of a higher cap, which will subsequently drive up the cost of open-market free agents in theory.

"It's important to remember that a higher cap will also mean slightly-higher restricted tenders and franchise tag amounts, so the news is relative with all 32 teams benefiting in terms of additional space. If the Ravens plan to use the tag on Pitta, they would now have to fork over an estimated $6.89 million for the tight end franchise tag compared to the previous projection of $6.7 million discussed this offseason."

Quick Hits

  • For those asking to release Rice … "For context, it's worth noting that the New England Patriots remain on the hook for a $7.5 million cap hit in 2014 for former tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was released by the organization and charged with first-degree murder last June," wrote Jones.

  • @brendon310: Holy [crap] I keep forgetting to call the NFLPA and officially retire today is the day! [Twitter]

  • I love this response from Torrey Smith to our BaltimoreRavens.com personality quiz. Smith took the quiz and came out as Ray Lewis instead of HIMSELF. As you can tell, it's a very scientific quiz. Feel free to take it yourself. I got John Harbaugh. … @Ravens: Haha. Oops RT @TorreySmithWR: RT @Ravens: Which Raven are YOU?....I took this and it said I was Ray Lewis (smiley face icon repeated six times) [Twitter]

  • @RavensSalaryCap: With no other moves, if Cap goes to $130M & they tender all 8 ERFA/RFA, Ravens would b just over $15M under Cap, w/ 54 players under contract [Twitter]

  • @mzenitz: Rex Ryan said Ed Reed did a "tremendous job" with the Jets both on the field and as a leader/mentor. "I think we all know Ed can still play" [Twitter]

  • North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron and Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro were both scheduled to meet with the Ravens Thursday night at the NFL scouting combine. [The Baltimore Sun]

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Please Note

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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