Sidney Rice is done for the year, but will he back next season?
I have a lot of time for Rice. Statistically you can argue he wasn’t worth the 5-year $41m contract he signed two years ago.
In reality, he might be worth every penny.
A few weeks ago I went back and watched Seattle’s game at San Francisco from 2010. It was Pete Carroll’s first year in charge, and Mike Singletary’s last.
It ended 40-21 to the 49ers. And the Seahawks were awful.
Looking at the roster, it was no surprise. The 2010 ‘Hawks are a million miles away from the current edition. If you need a pick-me-up after Monday night, I’d recommend going back and looking at some of those 2010 games. It’ll make you feel better about the rapid progress this franchise has made under Carroll.
Sidney Rice was part of the quick turnaround. A big part.
There was no doubt they needed a kick start. An injection of talent. The kind of proven talent that only free agency can provide.
Rice and Zach Miller were crucial additions. They immediately brought credibility to an offense that had previously relied on Deon Butler, Brandon Stokley and Ruvell Martin.
They were statement additions. The league took notice. Seattle means business.
And while they might never repay the financial investment via yardage and touchdowns, they certainly paved the way for the transition from rebuilding also-rans to genuine challengers.
Even statistically you can make a case for saying Rice has been somewhat successful. The injuries clearly hampered his 2011 and 2013 seasons. Yet when he was relatively healthy in 2012, he led the team for receiving yards and touchdowns.
748 yards and seven scores might not compare to Calvin Johnson’s statistics, but Seattle aren’t the Detroit Lions. They were fielding a rookie quarterback. They ranked #27 in the NFL for passing yards per game and #32 for pass attempts.
The Seahawks have never really used a traditional #1 target in the Carroll era. They’ve spread the ball around, whether it’s Matt Hasselbeck, Tarvaris Jackson or Russell Wilson under center. It’s a run first team, determined to feed Marshawn Lynch ahead of the receivers.
This isn’t the environment for elite wide out production. Rice’s numbers last year, when you think about it, are pretty good.
If this is his last season in Seattle, he should be remembered fondly as a competitive player who epitomised the blossoming attitude of this team. I’ll remember him as the guy who made several incredible sideline grabs to extend drives. I’ll remember that touchdown against New England — a signature play from last season.
And I’ll remember the way the younger players looked up to him, saw him as one of the leaders of the group. He helped create what we see today.
His cap hit in 2014 is $9.7m. The Seahawks can save $7.3m by cutting him.
They’re going to need to make some cuts. It’s unavoidable. He wouldn’t be the only one. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are getting paid in the off-season. Michael Bennett should be paid too. I suspect they’d like to make a push to keep Golden Tate.
Rice’s injury record makes him almost impossible to retain at $9.7m. Could they re-do his deal? Possibly.
If he’s going to be cut anyway, he might be willing to restructure his contract to essentially make it a one-year chancer. The Seahawks could easily back-load the new deals for Sherman and Thomas. That would allow them to keep Rice on a decent one-year contract. He would then be a free agent going into 2015, with the incentive of a big year in 2014 leading to a nice offer elsewhere.
That could still be a challenge if they intend to keep Tate around (and/or Bennett). And let’s not forget they went big on Percy Harvin. If they intend to make Harvin the focal point of the passing game, it makes little sense to pay the supporting cast big bucks.
That’s a debate for the future. Right now the Seahawks will miss Sidney Rice, especially with Harvin out indefinitely and seemingly still a few weeks away from contention.
This team avoided injuries for virtually the entire 2012 season. This year, the injury-bug is back with a vengeance.
If the Seahawks want to go receiver early this year, there are some options. Odell Beckham (WR, LSU) is a vastly underrated talent. His partner in crime Jarvis Landry likewise should be moving up boards. Mike Evans is having a big year at Texas A&M while Jordan Matthews continues to do his thing at Vanderbilt. There’s depth across the board.
Two other players who started the year as potential top-15 picks could also be set for a fall. Marqise Lee has struggled with form and injury — the mess at USC has also contributed. He lacks prototypical size and could drop as a consequence. Sammy Watkins at Clemson has been called out by one of his coaches and remains a bit of an enigma. If he drops, you still have to consider him. The talent is too high. He is a true game changer and with the right guidance could blossom into an elite NFL receiver.
It’s set to be a strong year for offensive tackles, but it’s not a bad year for receivers either. Seattle will have some options.