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Reuben Foster’s release forces Kansas City Chiefs (and other teams) to ask tough questions

If the Chiefs could potentially feel good about Reuben Foster’s off the field concerns, would it be worth the on-field addition?

For most of you who even bother to read the headline, the answer is already clear. And the answer is a negative one.

The Reuben Foster experiment is over the in the Bay Area with word from Adam Schefter on Sunday that the San Francisco 49ers will be releasing the linebacker outright, despite the first round investment just one year ago.

Every team will have to at least ask themselves the question out loud—all 31 other franchises—as to whether or not Foster is worth the risk. It might be an easy question with a quick answer, but they have to answer it nonetheless. It’s what happens with every player placed on waivers, and Foster’s natural talents aren’t easily found.

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Then again, Foster is a bad seed at this point. He was arrested on Saturday night for misdemeanor domestic violence charges just 10 months after being arrested with felony domestic violence charges in February—both incidents with the same woman, Elissa Ennis. The victim eventually stated she lied about Foster, which led to the DV charges being dropped last spring, but other misdemeanor charges remained including weapon possession and marijuana possession.

The Niners stated that Foster was on a very short leash this offseason, which means no matter what happens with this latest arrest, the former Alabama linebacker is done in San Fran.

Any team considering Foster would have to count the public relations nightmare that would follow suit, in addition to other considerations. What sort of message does it send to employ Foster at this point? San Francisco has obviously washed its hands of Foster, but there were serious calls for them to part ways with Foster even back in February. Most NFL franchises will feel the same way—maybe all of them—about Foster.

However other teams will welcome players with a history of domestic violence on a case by case basis. The Seattle Seahawks drafted Frank Clark in the second round despite a record of domestic violence. The Oakland Raiders kept Aldon Smith around despite his generally spotty history. Some teams like the Cincinnati Bengals or Baltimore Ravens have become known over time for thinking a bit too highly of on-field production as they’ve employed the likes of Pacman Jones or Ray Rice or Ray Lewis.

The Kansas City Chiefs are certainly no exception. as each week they celebrate the on-field accomplishments of Tyreek Hill each week despite the domestic violence charge in his past. This is also the same franchise that paid Larry Johnson to run the ball and put Jovan Belcher to work. What is true is that no single team is free from such blemishes in their past or even present?

How many players with arrest records are too many for a team? How many troubled backgrounds can a single locker room handle? There’s no set formula for this, but Foster’s mix of trouble and talent presents the latest case to consider.

If the Chiefs were to be open to signing Foster, it would likely be due to a few factors here:

  • In one sense, it’s hard to not appreciate the complexity of Foster’s own background. Reuben Foster’s own father shot his mother when he was only 18-months-old. While a man must be responsible to grow from whatever challenges he’s been given, let’s admit that some of us have easier roads to travel than others.
  • They would have to do their own deep dive into Foster and Ennis and the surrounding community of family and friends who would become a part of Chiefs Kingdom. As they say, you don’t just marry your spouse but the spouse’s family. The same is true when signing a player.
  • They would have to believe he could fit and help the Chiefs. This is the easiest part. The additions of Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens, on paper, looked like they should solve the Chiefs problem at inside linebacker, but 11 games into the new year and the team is still hurting for a real playmaker in the heart of the defense.
  • The Chiefs brought in Foster for a pre-draft visit so the draft connection is definitely there.

Probably 90-plus percent of Chiefs fans would automatically say no to any thought of adding Foster and rightfully so. He’s had his chances in San Francisco and apparently failed to learn from them. The 49ers have a first round pick invested and decided it wasn’t worth the effort. It’s brutal for a young, ascending team to simply give up on such a high investment after a single season.

That said, these things aren’t always so binary, so black-and-white. People are complex with reasons why they do and say the things they do and say. And the stories here have yet to be fleshed out on all sides. That’s not to say that Foster is employable and the Chiefs just need to dig to find it out. It just means that the question has to be asked and answered—in a sincere, meaningful way.

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