Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley should soon learn whether he will, or won’t, be charged with sexual assault in Ohio.
After the first-round rookie met with police in early May, Conley’s lawyer said that a decision from authorities is expected within 6-8 weeks. Seven weeks have passed.
It’s likely no coincidence that the Raiders have yet to sign Conley to a rookie contract. Why give him a signing bonus and guaranteed salaries for three years and part of a fourth if Conley ultimately may not be available to play?
The situation will become extremely murky for the Raiders if Conley is charged. The league can’t discipline him for pre-draft misconduct, but how can the NFL allow a person charged with felony rape to show up for work? The image-obsessed league office will twist arms to get Conley off the field, similar to what the league did in 2014 after the Ray Rice debacle led to extended leaves of absence with pay for Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson while both were facing unresolved criminal charges.
If Conley hasn’t signed, the safest approach for the league would be to nudge the team to not sign Conley but also not to rescind the draft pick. The Raiders would hold his rights until the next draft, and the team’s hope would be to see the situation fully and completely resolved by then.
Regardless of how it plays out, the Raiders will have only themselves to blame if prosecutors eventually can persuade a grand jury that sufficient evidence exists to indict him. They can’t say they weren’t aware of the risk that Conley would be charged.