Ray Rice just doesn’t look like the same player who started from 2009 through 2012. He lacks the burst that was once a staple of his game, seems less elusive in open space and goes down on first contact. He appears to be pressing and lacks patience and trust in the offensive line.
Who could blame him?
This season Rice is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry and 4.4 yards per reception. His numbers in the 2012 playoffs were very un-Rice-like, averaging 3.6 yards per carry although he did average 11 yards on 8 postseason catches, thanks in large part to a 47 yard grab against the Colts in the Wild Card Game.
During his first 5 seasons Rice had 1,216 carries and lost just 5 fumbles. Over the course of the 2012 postseason and through his first 5 games in 2013 Rice has coughed it up 5 times on just 155 carries.
The trends are alarmingly negative particularly when you consider that the Ravens will pay Rice $25M over the first 2 years of the 5 year deal he signed in August of 2012.
That said, if anyone thinks that the Ravens might part ways in 2014 with Rice should his struggles continue (he’s ranked 55th among 55 backs ranked by Pro Football Focus), think again. Due to the frontloaded nature of his contract, releasing Rice in 2014 would amount to $14.25M in dead cap money. If he’s released in 2015 it would cost the Ravens $9.5M in dead Presidents.
The Ravens obviously didn’t anticipate the decline in Rice’s play so suddenly. Perhaps it’s temporary and perhaps it’s symptomatic of the entire offense’s struggles. But if not let this serve as another lesson that heavy investment in a high risk position like running back can put extraordinary pressure on a team’s cap and place them at a competitive disadvantage.
Few successful teams if any value a back the way the Ravens value Rice.
Hopefully Rice and his offensive line get it together and trust is restored.
Otherwise this fan favorite and outstanding man in the community could represent a noose around the collective neck of the organization.