Punter Matt Araiza learned in December that he will not face criminal charges arising from allegations of gang rape dating back to his days at San Diego State. More recently, documents regarding the decision not to prosecute Araiza indicated that he was not even present when the alleged gang rape occurred -- and that he had left the premises roughly an hour earlier.
Despite a pending civil lawsuit, Araiza faces no incarceration. He faces no NFL suspension. He doesn’t even face the possibility of paid leave, through placement on the Commissioner-Exempt list. He faces a single civil suit, one that would not impact his NFL employment regardless of its outcome.
So will someone sign him? On one hand, he plays one of the most interchangeable positions in football. Punters are everywhere. He’s the only one of them facing this kind of off-field situation. While there’s every reason to believe he has the ability to perform at a high level in the NFL, is that enough to get a team to take a chance on him?
The Bills moved on from Araiza, a sixth-round pick in 2022, following the filing of the civil suit alleging gang rape. At the time, criminal charges remained possible.
Now, with criminal charges off the table, there’s nothing that keeps him from playing, other than P.R. considerations and the basic question of whether he brings enough to a team to justify any blowback.
The facts and circumstances, given our broader political climate, makes this case more grist for the red state/blue state mill. The more polarizing Araiza’s situation becomes, however, the more difficult it could be for him to find a way back onto an NFL roster.