It's far from a foregone conclusion that the Baltimore Ravens will cut tight end Nick Boyle when his 10-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances is over. But Boyle's second suspension in two seasons definitely puts a career that began with plenty of promise at risk.
Boyle, selected in the fifth round a year ago, was once considered the steal of the Ravens' draft last season with his strong blocking and better-than-expected production in the passing game. Some believed he was outplaying second-round tight end Maxx Willliams for the first three months.
But getting suspended a total of 14 games can be a tough challenge for any backup to overcome. It's also not a smart move to make the same mistake just two months after coach John Harbaugh described your first violation as "pretty dumb."
Boyle can take some solace in the fact the Ravens have stood by some players in the past for the same infraction. In 2013, cornerback Asa Jackson remained with the team after two suspensions for PEDs (a total of 12 games banned), and he was a fifth-round pick as well.
The difference is the Ravens needed more depth at cornerback that year (and saw Jackson as a potential replacement for Corey Graham as a nickel back the next season), and they might not be as desperate at tight end when Boyle returns. In losing Boyle for 10 games, the Ravens have to consider taking a blocking tight end in the later rounds of the draft or, at the very least, sign a No. 3 tight end to back up Williams and Crockett Gillmore.
If Boyle's replacement fills his void, Baltimore could decide to move on from Boyle in early November when he is eligible to be reinstated. Boyle's mistake creates an opportunity to take a spot he may never be able to regain again. The worry with sticking with Boyle is he's one more violation away from being suspended for two years.
There's also a chance that the Ravens will be counting the days until Boyle can play again. Gillmore and Williams dealt with multiple injuries throughout last season and missed a combined eight games. If either one is injured, Boyle could come back to a situation where Baltimore needs him to play significant snaps right away.
The Ravens were very pleased with Boyle before his first suspension, and he'll get a chance to redeem himself because he can practice with the team in the offseason and play in Baltimore's preseason games. It would be presumptuous to write off Boyle right now.
But Boyle has a lot to prove. This repeated mistake shows poor decision-making and that he didn't learn the first time. It also puts his once-secure place on the Ravens roster in jeopardy. In this case, it could be two strikes and out for Boyle.