Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson talks about the Ravens reaching a settlement with their former running back Ray Rice before his grievance hearing for wrongful termination. (Kevin Richardson/BSMG)
The Ravens and former star running back Ray Rice reached a financial settlement Thursday, avoiding a grievance hearing and potentially-lengthy wait for a ruling by NFL system arbitrator Shyam Das, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.
Rice filed a grievance against the Ravens in October after his $35 million contract was terminated in September. He sought back pay of his $3.529 million base salary for 2014. The parties settled shortly before the grievance was scheduled to start Thursday, according to sources.
Compensation details weren't disclosed, but a source said the two sides reached a compromise that was "fair."
The Ravens were holding $1.44 million against the salary cap since the grievance was filed.
The Ravens, Rice and the NFL Players Association haven't commented publicly on the financial settlement, but statements were being prepared about the close of an episode that dominated conversation around the league this past year.
Sources said the Ravens and Rice wanted to avoid dragging out a potentially awkward case after previously going through litigation that concluded with the three-time Pro Bowl running back being reinstated from an indefinite suspension in November by former federal judge Barbara S. Jones.
Witnesses, including team officials, were in town and prepared to testify at an undisclosed location in the Baltimore area. One source opined that the NFL and Ravens might have wanted to avoid a potential challenge and precedent to teams' right to cut players for virtually any reason under the collective bargaining agreement.
Rice's representatives and the NFL Players Association were prepared to argue that the Ravens violated Article 46 of the collective bargaining agremement when he was released. The provision prohibits the NFL and teams from punishing a player more than once for a single volation.
Rice was cut by the Ravens on Sept. 8 when a graphic video surfaced of him knocking out his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer — now his wife — in a casino elevator in Atlantic City, N.J. Rice had already been suspended for two games before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upgraded the punishment to an indefinite suspension.
Another argument that was being prepared, according to sources, was that the Ravens cut Rice only because of the significant public outcry created by the video.
Rice's side was expected to cite a 96-page investigative report from former FBI director Robert Mueller III that concluded Ravens team officials, including general manager Ozzie Newsome, team president Dick Cass and coach John Harbaugh, were thoroughly briefed by security director Darren Sanders on the details of the domestic violence incident.
Sanders was given a description of what happened from an Atlantic City police officer. The report said that the NFL and Ravens didn't see the full video prior to it being leaked in September on TMZ, the celebrity gossip website.
Rice was paid a total of $25 million of his five-year, $35 million contract signed on July 16, 2012. That included a $15 million signing bonus, the highest for a running back in NFL history.
Rice is a free agent, but sources said he hasn't hasn't been invited to visit or work out for any teams since he was reinstated.
This business transaction concludes his litigation with the Ravens, who drafted him in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft out of Rutgers. Rice is the Ravens' second all-time leading rusher behind Jamal Lewis with 6,180 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns in six NFL seasons. He also caught 369 passes for 3,034 yards and six touchdowns.
Rice, 27, is hoping to relaunch his football career, but sources emphasized that he's realistic about how difficult that might be because of the public-relations firestorm expected to follow him to another NFL city. A source said that Rice continues to work out as he hopes for another chance in the NFL.