The National Football League has given plenty of people second chances. In the past, players such as Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress have been imprisoned only to return to an NFL field. In comparison, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, who struck their fiancee and child respectively, should have no problem getting a chance at redemption if history is a guide. Neither were put in prison, and both have stated they are sorry for what took place.
Then there are men who have committed no crime at all, but find themselves on the outside looking in. Guard Richie Incognito was involved in a bullying scandal last year with the Miami Dolphins, earning his release. Incognito became a free agent and is still without a team, despite having a meeting in November with the Denver Broncos.
Finally, we reach a player who has done everything right. Linebacker Michael Sam came out as a gay man during the 2014 NFL Draft process, becoming the first player selected as a known homosexual. The St. Louis Rams took Sam in the seventh round but cut him in the preseason. The Dallas Cowboys signed Sam to their practice squad, but the Missouri star found himself released once more. Nobody has signed him since.
So what are the chances of these players suiting up in 2015? Let’s take a look.
Adrian Peterson – 100 percent
There is no way Peterson is not the starting running back for a team come training camp. Peterson is eligible for reinstatement on April 15 and would return to the Minnesota Vikings. Should Minnesota cut him, the Vikings would save $13 million in cap space, per ESPN. There is a very real chance Peterson will have to move on, but it won’t take long for him to find a new home.
Peterson is arguably the best running back in the NFL, and talents like those don’t come easily. A team that feels it’s a player or two away from a championship will find a way to justify signing him.
Richie Incognito – 60 percent
Incognito has had off-the-field issues throughout his collegiate and professional career, but he shows up on Sunday’s. Ultimately, Incognito has fallen from the limelight, making him easier to sign by a team hoping to get a quality interior lineman. After sitting out for a year, Incognito would need to knock off some rust. Bringing him aboard in a position where he can battle for a starting spot might be the best course of action.
Ray Rice – 30 percent
Rice has a tough case. He used to be an excellent player with four consecutive seasons of 1,000+ rushing yards. However, he was brutal in 2013, rushing for a meager 3.1 yards per carry. After the graphic video was shown of Rice beating his then-fiancee Janay Palmer, via TMZ, it will be tough to sign Rice without the media spotlight outweighing his production.
Michael Sam – 1 percent
Sam seems like a terrific person, but he didn’t appear to have the skills necessary to be an NFL linebacker. Sam was a defensive end in college but is too small for that spot in the NFL. As a linebacker, Sam has a tough time dropping into coverage and shedding blocks, a few of the reasons he couldn’t stick with the Rams and Cowboys. It will be hard finding a team to believe in him.