The Baltimore Ravens face a tough decision in how to handle running back Ray Rice's domestic violence incident, which has gone from a simple assault to a summons indicating the running back knocked his fiancée unconscious.
If the Ravens stand by Rice, they're going to face increasing pressure from fans and negative media attention to cut him. If the Ravens cut Rice, they will lose a significant chunk of their salary cap, which will derail some of their offseason plans to bounce back from last season's disappointing 8-8 season.
The Ravens are in a lose-lose situation with Rice.
In most instances, teams gain salary-cap room by cutting a player. But, the way Rice's contract is structured, the Ravens would lose $5.5 million in cap space by parting ways with Rice because of the pro-rated bonuses that would have to be absorbed. To put that in context, that $5.5 million is more than what the Ravens saved when they signed linebacker Terrell Suggs to an extension Monday.
The Ravens could designate Rice as a post-June 1 cut, which would create $4 million in cap space in 2014. The problem is, Rice would count $9.5 million in dead money in 2015, which is a large chunk for a player not on the roster. Anyway you look at it, the Ravens lose a significant amount of cap space if they decide to cut him.
Let's make this clear: As of Wednesday evening, no one from the Ravens organization has insinuated that Rice is getting cut. There has been no anonymous sources speculating that Rice is on the chopping block.
Some fans have asked about a "moral clause" that would allow the Ravens to cut Rice without taking a cap hit. That is unrealistic. The other 31 teams in the league aren't going to let the Ravens have a pass because a player was arrested. Do you think the Ravens would allow the Steelers to cut a player without suffering the cap consequences just because that player was arrested? No.
The Ravens have never rushed to judgment on a player. They kept cornerback Samari Rolle and Suggs on the team during their domestic violence cases. General manager Ozzie Newsome told reporters Monday that Rice is still a big part of the team's plans in 2014, although he did say a final decision won't be made until he gets all of the answers.
Even if the Ravens stick with Rice, he could face discipline from the NFL. Under the personal conduct policy, the league has fined and suspended players who haven't been arrested. The fact that Rice has never been arrested previously could work in his favor.
Rice is coming off his most disappointing season, averaging a career-worst 3.1 yards per carry. This upcoming season was considered a make-or-break one for him. Now, the Ravens might have to think about the future a little sooner.
As Rice deals with the incident, the Ravens are at the NFL combine. While there is no easy way to part ways with Rice, team officials need to take a look at whether there are any prospects who can replace him.