The Buffalo Bills have drafted one running back this offseason who has been accused of domestic violence.
According to at least one NFL executive, the team might be interested in signing a player charged with that crime.
A recent article in Sports Illustrated by Don Banks quotes a "high-level club executive" as saying the Bills could have an interest in former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
"Buffalo could be another team to watch with Rice," the executive told Banks. "They don’t have a need at running back right now, but I’m told Rex Ryan thinks the world of him from their time together in Baltimore. He loves him. He doesn’t like him. He loves him.
So far, the Bills have yet to respond to a request for comment from The Buffalo News.
Rice hasn't played in the NFL since the 2013 season. He was initially suspended for the first two games of 2014 after TMZ showed a video of him dragging his finacee, Janay Palmer, out of an elevator of Atlantic City's Revel Casino Hotel in February 2014. That suspension later became an indefinite one after TMZ aired a second video of showing Rice punching Palmer, knocking her unconscious.
The Ravens cut Rice in September after the video surfaced, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell found himself in a firestorm of controversy over both his handling of the incident, and the league's seemingly lax policy when it comes to domestic violence.
Earlier this month, a New Jersey judge dismissed the domestic violence charges against Rice after he successfully completed the terms of his pretrial intervention.
So far, though, no NFL team has offered him a job. Banks anonymously interviewed a dozen league sources about whether that change will ever come. He found those he spoke with to be "roughly split," on whether Rice ever gets another chance in the NFL.
There are multiple factors working against Rice. Any team signing him must be prepared for an avalanche of public backlash given the gruesome nature of his crime. The lasting image of Rice striking Palmer so violently forced the NFL to change how it handles such cases. Rice's indefinite suspension was overturned on appeal in November.
That has led some -- including NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith -- to suggest NFL owners are colluding to keep Rice out of the league.
"This, unfortunately, is a league that has a history of blackballing players," Smith said in an interview last week with ESPN. "I find it hard to believe that a player of Mr. Rice's caliber hasn't at least gotten one offer from a team to come work out."
Of course, the other issue when it comes to signing Rice deals with his on-the-field performance. His production in 2013 -- 214 carries for 660 yards, an average of 3.1 yards per rush -- dropped dramatically from previous seasons. He's 28 years old and plays a position that is viewed as replaceable in today's NFL.
Other veteran running backs like Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson and Pierre Thomas are also out of the league, and none of them are on video knocking out their fiancee.
From the Bills' perspective, it's hard to see the need for Rice. LeSean McCoy was acquired this offseason to be the feature back. Veterans Fred Jackson, Boobie Dixon and Bryce Brown provide solid depth, and rookie Karlos Williams -- who was accused, but never charged with domestic violence while at Florida State -- was added in the fifth round of the draft.
Until they say otherwise, however, the Bills can't be entirely ruled out. When asked at the draft what indiscretions would prevent a player from being considered for the team, Bills General Manger Doug Whaley said the following:
"The one that I would not even want to sit down and talk to a player would be if a guy stole from his teammate. To me, that's stealing from your family and that to me is just not something I can deal with for what we’re doing. We’re trying to build a team and a family and that locker room is sacred. And for that, I have a hard time with that. Obviously there are some other things that if they’re guilty for murder and all that stuff, of course, but the indiscretions we’re talking about, yes that would be it."
Earlier this month, Bills running backs coach Anthony Lynn said the team would consider signing another player at the position.
“You bring in the best competition that you can,” Lynn said. “I don’t think my room is any more crowded than I’ve had in recent years. We needed the numbers. We needed to get another back. Hell, we may even add another one.”