Could Bernard Pierce supplant Ray Rice?

AP

The Ravens stubbornly have supported running back Ray Rice through his domestic violence incident, and for good reason. After signing him to a contract that paid out $25 million over the first two years of the five-year deal, the Ravens weren’t going to cut Rice as he approached the cheaper seasons of the front-loaded contract.

Also, Rice continues to be the team’s best option at tailback. Teams don’t make examples out of key players; they save that for guys who were going to be cut anyway or who are replaced much more easily.

But with Rice suspended for the first two games of the season and, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, Bernard Piece looking to be the best running back in camp, that could all change.  Per Hensley, Pierce has made the smoothest transition to new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s one-cut running scheme fueled by zone blocking.

Pierce has been a solid contributor over the last two seasons, but hardly a star.  As a rookie in 2012, Pierce gained 532 yards rushing.  In 2013, he gained only 436 — averaging a mere 2.9 yards per carry.

Then again, Rice didn’t do much better in 2013, gaining 660 yards and averaging only 3.1 per carry.  With Pierce due to make $570,000 and $660,000 over the next two seasons and Rice slated to pocket $4 million and $3 million, respectively, the Ravens may at some point decide that Pierce provides the better dollar-for-dollar option.