I'm sure that you've all seen the post that Ted made earlier today, which makes numerous very good points about Sidney Rice being an indispensable part of the Minnesota Vikings' offense. This may or may not be true. . .after all, we don't know whether or not Rice is going to be a part of this team in 2011 or not.
However, I don't think I'm all that far off in making the declaration that Sidney Rice re-signing with Minnesota is a long-shot, at best. The Vikings, at the moment, simply don't have the room under the new salary cap to give Rice the kind of money that he and Drew Rosenhaus are going to want, and have other areas (such as safety and the interior of the offensive line) that will need attention with the money that they can free up.
With that, even though Ted's post is awesome and everything because Ted is awesome and stuff, I want to try to make the case that if Sidney Rice does happen to part ways with the Minnesota Vikings when the free agency free-for-all gets underway, there's no need to curl up into the fetal position, suck our thumbs, and cry ourselves to sleep.
Let me give it a shot.When it boils right down to it, Sidney Rice has been in the National Football League for four seasons, and has only been healthy. . .and productive. . .for one year. Granted, it was a really, really, really good year. It saw Rice play in all 16 games for the Vikings, snag 83 catches for 1,312 yards (15.8 yards/catch) and eight touchdowns, and basically catch everything that Brett Favre threw in his direction. That's the good part about Sidney Rice.
The bad part? In his other three NFL seasons combined, Rice has 63 receptions for 817 yards (13.0 yards/catch) and ten scores. To illustrate this further, let me put Sidney Rice's career receiving numbers next to those of another talented Vikings receiver.
Again, keep in mind that Rice has been in the NFL for four seasons, while Harvin has been in the NFL for two. In addition, while Rice has always been a wide receiver running wide receiver routes and things like that, Harvin was more of a hybrid player in college that had a much bigger adjustment to make to being a wide receiver at the NFL level. Percy Harvin, in my opinion, has a lot of room to learn and grow as an NFL wide receiver, and with the increased role he's expected to see in the Minnesota offense this year, we may still only be scratching the surface of his abilities.
Rice, on the other hand, may have peaked already. Now, I know that might sound like a ridiculous declaration to make about a guy that won't hit the age of 25 until September 1, but there's a reason for making it, and one question that anyone that wants to back an armored truck full of money up to Sidney Rice's door is going to have to ask themselves.
How's the hip?
We all know about Sidney Rice's hip injury from last year. . .the one that he apparently injured during the NFC Championship Game and didn't have surgery on until the first week of training camp, causing him to miss the first nine games of Minnesota's 2010 season. There have even been rumors going around that he may have arthritis in that hip. Do you feel comfortable with the Vikings potentially giving a ton of money to a 25-year old whose hip might be falling apart with each passing game?
I'm not sure that I am. . .and, believe me, for the first couple of years of his career, there was no bigger believer in Sidney Rice than yours truly. Heck, during his rookie year, I even sponsored his page over at Pro Football Reference and consistently referred to him as "Sidney Rice (sponsored by The Daily Norseman)," because I saw the ridiculous physical potential that he had. And if you told me that we would be guaranteed the Sidney Rice that we saw in 2009 for the majority of his contract and we had a legitimate opportunity to keep him, I'd be the first person in line saying that we should pay the man.
But, for now, he has too many questions. . .and a team in a situation like the one the Vikings find themselves in at the moment doesn't have time for a heck of a lot of questions. He had enough issues staying healthy and productive before a potentially arthritic hip, and such a condition doesn't exactly enhance his attractiveness. If a team like New England or Cleveland or St. Louis or whoever it might be wants to give Rice a bunch of money based on his 2009 performance and gamble on his hip being just fine. . .yes, it might hurt in the short-term, but in the long-term, it might not be the worst thing ever.
Bill Musgrave appears to be wanting to put together an offense similar to what we saw in New England last year, with plenty of mismatches at tight end created by Visanthe Shiancoe and rookie Kyle Rudolph, receivers that can gain yards after the catch, which is really Harvin's modus operandi, and the power running of Adrian Peterson, the best running back in football. If Minnesota can keep him for a reasonable price, that would be swell. . .but if the Vikings can't bring Rice back for a fairly reasonable amount, I'm sure there are other free agent receivers available in this year's market that might like to be a part of something like that.
I guess by this time next week, we'll all know for sure.