Okay kids, I'm going on the assumption that the players won't be colossally stupid and will, in fact, approve the new CBA. SO that means it's time to kick the football talk into high gear. One of the things that we have bandied about over the off-season, when we haven't been consumed by this labor crap, is the status of two big pieces of the Vikings puzzle, Sidney Rice and Ray Edwards.
It's almost a foregone conclusion that Edwards won't be back, but now that I have embraced the Twitter, Judd Zulgad tweeted this earlier today:
I'm not confident Rice will remain in Minnesota. RT @Adamwordennnnn: @JuddZulgad fair enough. You think sid stays?
Not sounding good. Let's break down Sid's importance after the jump.
The Vikings have drafted four quarterbacks to be their 'Quarterback of the Future' three times in their history (I'm not counting Fran Tarkenton, because the Vikes were an expansion team, and it doesn't fit my narrative, so there), Tommy Kramer, Daunte Culpepper, Tarvaris Jackson, and Christian Ponder.
Two of those quarterbacks had legitimate WR targets that helped in their development as good, or at a minumum, serviceable quarterbacks. For Kramer, he had Ahmad Rashad and Sammie White. Culpepper had Randy Moss and Cris Carter. Rashad and White are all time greats for the Vikings, and Carter and Moss are all-time NFL greats.
Tarvaris Jackson had Bobby Wade and Troy Williamson, guys who are great receivers...in Arena Football or the UFL. Well, okay, I'm being too hard on Bobby Wade, because he was a legitimate, serviceable receiver for the Vikes, but Williamson I cut no slack to. Is it a coincidence that Kramer and Culpepper had a fair amount of success in the NFL, and Tarvaris Jackson hasn't?
Maybe that's too simplistic of a view, because there's a lot more that goes into being a successful NFL quarterback than just having two wide receivers, and I'll concede that point. But if I concede that point, you'll have to concede that having two good wide receivers certainly doesn't hurt, right? Good.
Either Zulgad or Tom Pelissero also tweeted that Ponder expects to be the starter (like his confidence), and if that's going to be the case, Ponder will need some reliable targets to throw to. Sidney Rice is one of those targets, and the Vikings must make every reasonable effort to re-sign him.
Percy Harvin is a dynamic playmaker, but has struggled on the outside. He is clearly more productive in the slot, with big, legitimate targets on the outside drawing attention, giving him room to exploit gaps in coverage. Not re-signing Rice actually weakens two players, in my opinion, and will hurt Ponder in his ability to develop. And that development has already suffered because of the lockout.
So, moving forward, who do the Vikings have if Rice moves on? Well, let's look. For starters, Harvin. Moving him around is an option, but without a legitimate WR opposite, it will be tough to get him in favorable one on one matchups.
Bernard Berrian is still on the roster, and if Rice leaves, will that make Berrian a must keep guy? I'm not convinced that's the case. Berrian has struggled for the last two years, and isn't worth the salary. But if Sid bolts, do you run the risk of bringing in an almost brand new receiving corps? The VIkings didn't address the WR corps in the draft until the 7th round, when they selected Stephon Burton. Does anyone really think that a 7th round pick is the answer to Sidney Rice?
At TE, the VIkings have the proven Visanthe Shiancoe and the rookie Kyle Rudolph, and both of those guys will be legitimate short and medium range targets. Great guys to go to when you need to move the chains, but they aren't a field stretching deep threat. Harvin is, but can he do that out wide? So far, in his career, the answer to that is no.
Who could they bring in? Plaxico Burress, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, the names really don't matter. They are all guys that are on the downside of their career, and will be a stopgap solution at best. Rice is still young, seems to be healthy, and will help be the guy that gets Ponder and the Vikings to the next level.
Losing him would be a crippling blow to the team.