The 5 o’clock club is published from time to time during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
This time last year (and for months before) Matt Araiza was the topic of a lot of discussion as “The Punt God” from San Diego State University was preparing to start his NFL career in Buffalo after the Bills drafted him in the 6th round.
The Bills released Araiza in August, before the start of the 2022 season, due to allegations that he was connected to a rape that allegedly took place in October 2021.
Ari Meirov (@mysportsupdate) on Matt Araiza:— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) May 10, 2023
In December, all charges against Araiza were dropped, and this week there has been further clarification. This Associated Press article provides a lot of detail:
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza was not present when an alleged gang rape of a minor occurred at an October 2021 party in San Diego nor was he visible in videos recovered after the incident, which led to a police investigation and a lawsuit by the woman who said she was attacked, according to witness testimony.
The testimony was included in evidence that prompted the San Diego District Attorney to not press criminal charges against Araiza last year.
ESPN obtained and reviewed audio from a Dec. 7, 2022, meeting during which the details were discussed. The meeting was attended by San Diego deputy district attorney Trisha Amador and the woman, as well as the woman’s attorney, district attorney investigator Ted Mansour and a selected victim advocate.
The purpose of the meeting was largely for Amador to explain why criminal charges could not be filed and answer questions after the San Diego Police Department concluded its investigation in August 2022.
Amador told the woman Araiza left the off-campus party about an hour before the time of the reported rape, according to a witness. Amador said Araiza is “alleged to have left the party at 12:30” and was not “even at the party anymore” when the alleged rape occurred at 1:30 a.m. Pacific, according to video time stamps of the encounter.
Feeling that his name has been cleared, Araiza is now seeking to re-start his NFL career.
UPDATE: Former Ray Guy award winner and Unanimous First-Team All-American Matt Araiza’s camp has been working the phones reaching out to teams, source says.— MLFootball (@_MLFootball) May 10, 2023
This comes after the former Buffalo #Bills punter was cleared by the DA that he wasn't present during the alleged rape.… pic.twitter.com/WUiP8TeCrC
Most NFL fans say that they believe in competition, and most also want the front office of their favorite team to be constantly on the lookout for ways to give the team competitive advantages.
Araiza seems to offer just such an advantage, with the ability to change field position in a game with his powerful leg.
In Washington, of course, the current (and long-time) punter is the immensely popular Tress Way, who was one of four Commanders to make the Pro Bowl in 2022. Does any NFL fan base adore its punter more? We often say, probably no more than half-jokingly, that Tress Way is the team’s MVP. His accuracy and consistency have, indeed, been competitive weapons for the burgundy & gold for close to a decade.
But, would the Commanders’ interests be best served by bringing Araiza to camp? One has to imagine that he could be signed for a league-minimum contract (or something close to it). Tress Way, in the meantime, is set to count $3.5m and $3.75m against the cap in the coming two seasons.
Also, Tress Way is 33 years old; while the alarm isn’t about to go off any time soon, the clock is ticking on his shelf life as an NFL punter. Meanwhile, Araiza will turn 23 years old this week. Presumably, however much time Tress Way has left, Araiza has a decade longer.
Although Araiza still has the civil suit pending, should Ron Rivera be looking at the possibility of signing Araiza to a contract in Washington now that he has been cleared of any criminal charges by the prosecutor?
If not, why not?
Would it be because of the suspicion that is attached to Araiza after last summer’s allegations and the lawsuit?
Is it instead because of loyalty to “our MVP”, Tress Way, who has been everything Commanders fans could have asked for since joining the team in 2014?
Does Ron Rivera owe it to the franchise and its fans to investigate the possibility of acquiring a younger, cheaper player with a stronger leg, or should loyalty for what Tress has done in Washington tip the scales and make him immune to competition?
Should the Commanders try to sign Hank Araiza?
This poll is closed
Yes! He’d be an upgrade to Tress Way
Yes, but only as competition in camp. May the best punter win the job.