In a roster move that the Pittsburgh Steelers announced almost a month ago, the team officially waived running back Chris Rainey on Tuesday. This move, decided upon after his arrest in Florida, completes the potential dismantling of the entire 2012 backfield, as Rainey was the only running back that they had under contract at this point for the 2013 season.Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer being restricted free agents and running back Baron Batch an exclusive rights free agent, meaning that all three will likely receive tenders this offseason. However, it is definitely something to keep an eye on as the team moves toward the draft.
Today, Rainey, who late last week pled no contest to the charges that led to his release, cleared waivers and will become an unrestricted free agent. Yes, the 2012, fifth-round selection had an up-and-down rookie season, but he demonstrated explosiveness in the return game and athleticism out of the backfield. More importantly to the league, he showed pure speed, an attribute that you cannot coach.
The Steelers in some ways were burnt by taking a risk on Rainey, especially considering his character and off-field issues in college. It is inevitable that some team will again take that risk with Rainey, even though all of the remaining 31 teams passed on him during the NFL waiver process. Now that he is an unrestricted free agent, any team could sign him to a minimum value contract, minimizing any risk that may come from his repeated run-ins with the law.
While the Steelers and Rainey have parted ways, here is hoping that the franchise learned from this debacle and will hesitate before pulling the trigger on a player with multiple character risk check marks. Yes, athleticism and explosiveness are important, but, repeat offenses do nothing but hurt team chemistry and add dead money to the salary cap.
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