Free Agency 2011 – The Race for Sidney Rice

| July 25, 2011

While there’s more back and forth regarding the CBA with suggestions of power plays and such, I’m taking a fairly unique approach.
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The “la-la-la-la-la” approach. A system that works by putting my fingers in my ears and pretending everything is going to be alright. I’ve tried working things out in my head logically, but that just confuses me more. So, while my new approach doesn’t make me any more informed, it’s a lot simpler to follow.
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With that in mind, I’m work on the basis of a deal being just around the corner and free agency being upon us. Marching ahead with profiling some of the most sought after free agents, step forward, Sidney Rice.

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Top Receiver?
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One of the things that I’m really looking at in free agency, is who gets paid more: Rice or Santonio Holmes. If you look at their body of work it’s pretty clear to me that Santonio Holmes is a guy whose on-field production is a lot more trustworthy (we’ll save the off field stuff for another day). The former Steeler made “that” Super Bowl-winning catch, and has since developed into one of the top receivers in the league. Assuming he doesn’t get suspended, he’s as close to a sure thing free agent receiver as there is.
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Rice, however, has one year of top quality production, and is coming off an injury-plagued 2010. Both men have red flags, but right now Rice has the bigger ones. So then, why I am writing about Rice and not Holmes? Well it’s simply a case of believing Rice presents a more interesting option to a number of teams, and that (and I may be placing too much faith in his 2009) he has a higher ceiling as a player. Any way you look at it, both men are extremely talented, and a lot of what is written here will be applicable to Holmes as well.
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Getting past that little tangent, let’s look at five teams who will be looking for Sidney Rice to become their deep threat.
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5. Minnesota Vikings

Why it will happen: Minnesota can lock up a deal before other teams, and Rice seems to get along fine with management. While home town discounts need not apply, Rice, you feel, would be more inclined to take an offer from Minnesota given his history with them. The Vikes want Rice back and he’s a priority for them.

Why it won’t: Where does the money come from to pay Rice? Essentially, you feel Rice may stay with Minnesota but why would he when another team could throw far more up-front money his way?
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4. Seattle Seahawks

Why it will happen: There’s plenty of money in Seattle and there seems to be a feeling a vertical threat is what they need. They have the big possession receiver but could use someone to keep defenses fearful of the deep ball. Rice is that guy and Seattle won’t be scared of paying him. New offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has plenty of familiarity with Rice.

Why it won’t: The Seahawks have nothing in the short term or long term currently at quarterback. Just look at Steve Smith in Carolina last year to see how frustrating that can be. Does Rice want to put himself in that position?
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3. Jacksonville Jaguars

Why it will happen: Mike Sims-Walker is departing and the Jags are left with Mike Thomas as the only receiver on the roster you’d trust. They need to get better so their passing game can keep defenses honest. Otherwise, Maurice Jones-Drew’s condition won’t be the only worry for their running game as teams don’t account for the Jags going deep. It wouldn’t hurt a rookie quarterback to have a weapon like Rice in the long term as well (for whenever Gabbert gets the job).

Why it won’t: Would Rice be interested in Jacksonville? They have an uncertain quarterback position, don’t look like a playoff team on the surface and are in a small market that may not give him the profile he feels his talents deserve. Jacksonville has plenty of money and a legitimate need, but there may be some better options out there for Rice.
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2. Chicago Bears

Why it will happen: The Bears have a multitude of receivers under or around the six foot mark. Speedster guys who will do something after the catch, or beat you with sheer speed. They don’t have that big target that quarterbacks love to chuck the ball up to. Cutler had his best year (2008) when he had that big physical target who can make the window to hit receivers that little bit bigger. Rice equals a better Cutler, and the Bears aren’t afraid to make a free agent splash. Chicago has plenty of cap room as well.

Why it won’t: There are plenty of other areas to upgrade on offense, especially the line. They could serve with bringing in three others players, and could stand to add a stud like Brandon Mebane at defensive tackle. They seem pretty happy with their receivers as well.
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1. St Louis Rams

Why it will happen: The Rams have plenty of money and a whole load of issues at wide receiver. Sure they have plenty of bodies, but they’re a combination of young, unproven talent and guys coming back from serious injuries. Sam Bradford needs to take a step forward this year, after largely attacking short and intermediate routes. He needs to start challenging teams deep, and a player like Rice will make that challenge a lot easier. They have cap room.

Why it won’t: You wonder if the Rams may want to try the “throw as much at the wall” approach, hoping to strike cheaper gold with one of the 16,423 receivers on the roster. Sure, they all have question marks, but one of them has to have the right answers, right?
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There will be other suitors. Young talents like Rice don’t often hit the open market. But right now it makes too much sense for St Louis – and especially for Sam Bradford and his development – for them not to make Rice an offer he can’t refuse.
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