Free agent Wide Receiver Sidney Rice has been medically cleared for all Football activities by Dr. James Andrews, nearly two months after his February release by the Seattle Seahawks. A former first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings, Rice's once promising career has been beset by injuries in recent years.
Other than 2012, when he appeared in all 16 games for Seattle, Rice has missed a total of 24 regular season games since 2010, his last year as a Viking. He appeared in just 8 games for the Seahawks in 2013, before an ACL tear ended his season and forced him to watch from the sidelines as his teammates lifted the Lombardi Trophy. Shortly after, he was released by the team in an effort to clear over $7 million of cap space.
Sidney Rice hauls in a tough catch as a Minnesota Viking.
Even before he got his medical clearance from Dr. Andrews, Rice was the recipient of interest on the open market from multiple teams, including the Seahawks, who could still look to bring him back at a reduced, team-friendly rate. Seattle has a spot to fill at the position following Golden Tate's move to Detroit.
Another team that showed some interest in March was the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are always on the lookout for playmakers, and with Lance Moore now a Pittsburgh Steeler and Robert Meachem still unsigned, there could be a fit assuming the right terms could be struck between Rice and New Orleans.
The Saints could pitch a one-year "prove it" deal to Rice, who in essence could look to show the rest of the league that he is, indeed, over his most recent injury setback, while putting up enough on-field production to maximize his market value heading into the 2015 free agency period. Still just 27, with a 6-4 200 lb. frame and long arms, a healthy Rice has always shown flashes of true playmaking ability, and he would receive no shortage of opportunities in Sean Payton's offense with Drew Brees at the controls.
The Saints would also give Rice an opportunity to bide his time early in the year, and ease his way back to full health. Marques Colston remains the team's go-to threat on the outside, with Kenny Stills also emerging as a viable weapon. Whether he is playing under the franchise tag or not, Tight End Jimmy Graham will almost certainly be back as well. Rice could find his niche in the team, possibly as another go-to red zone weapon for Brees, and round his way back to full fitness in time to make a significant impact in other areas down the stretch. Behind Colston, the Saints receiving corps is a largely unproven bunch. Adding Rice would help bolster that group.
The New York Jets and Carolina Panthers have also been linked with Rice since his release. The Jets are looking to continue to improve their receiving corps and have already brought in Eric Decker this offseason. Meanwhile, Carolina's need for playmakers on the outside is well documented, and Rice played his college ball nearby at South Carolina and grew up in the Palmetto State. However, either of those teams would likely require more of an instant impact from the former Gamecock standout, whereas New Orleans could give him a more steady platform and pace to work at. As stated above, there is still a chance at a reunion with the Seahawks, and a chance to help his most recent former team defend their Super Bowl crown.
Sidney Rice is hoping that 2014 brings him a fresh start, and an opportunity to reboot a career that saw him amass 16 touchdowns through his first three seasons as a pro in Minnesota. While the injuries have made their impact, Rice still has the tools and skills to be a dangerous weapon for a team in need of help at the receiver position. Perhaps, a change of scenery and an injection of stability is what Rice needs at this point in his career. Perhaps, New Orleans could offer him such an opportunity.