Under Bevell, Rice posted career numbers as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. In 2009, he tallied 83 receptions, 1,312 yards receiving, 430 yards after the catch and scored eight touchdowns.
Furthermore, he was Pro Football Focus’ (subscription required) second-highest-rated wideout in 2009. He amassed 15 positively graded regular-season games and one positively graded playoff game.
The only wide receiver to garner a higher regular-season grade was Vincent Jackson of the San Diego Chargers.
Unfortunately for Rice, he was never able to find his 2009 form again. Bevell and head coach Pete Carroll did everything in their power to make him the focal point of Seattle’s passing attack, but injuries and inconsistent play led to his eventual release after three seasons in the Pacific Northwest.
Rice’s release didn’t come as a surprise based on the fact he was set to make $9.7 million in 2014. Yet, the Seahawks made it clear that they are keeping an open line of communication with Rice.
According to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, “Sources familiar with the Seahawks' thinking have told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport that the team is now interested in re-signing Sidney Rice.”
At the right price, the move would make a ton of sense. The Seahawks have a glaring need at the wide receiver position after Golden Tate's departure, and Rice already knows Seattle’s offensive system inside and out.
However, one has to ponder a bigger question, because it’s not always about the money and the fit. At the end of the day, it’s about performance. Does Rice have anything left to offer the Seahawks from a performance standpoint?
Surprisingly, some would say yes due to Rice’s intimidating size and game-changing speed (when healthy). Yet, it’s hard to overlook his injury history and the lack of interest he has garnered on the open market.
Here’s what David Newton of ESPN.com had to say about Rice, and the interest he is drawing from teams around the league: “No team other than Seattle remains interested.”
Newton’s comment makes it clear that teams are worried about Rice’s inability to stay healthy. Yes, he is still 27 years young, but he has missed 31 games total over the course of his seven-year career. No matter which way you slice it, that’s a disturbing number.
Of the 31 games he has missed, eight of them came in 2013.
During the Seahawks' Week 8 contest versus the St. Louis Rams, Rice tore his ACL. Even though the ACL injury was the first of his career, the eighth-year player out of South Carolina has had bothersome knees the last few years.
Prior to the 2013 season, he traveled to Switzerland to have treatment on his knees. The trip forced him to miss training camp, which ultimately led pundits to believe Rice’s body was breaking down at an alarming rate.
Obviously, Rice won’t admit that his days in the NFL might be numbered because of his knees, but the writing is on the wall. As talented as he may be, the knock against him has always been his health.
And it will continue to be a knock against him until he proves he can stay healthy for an entire season. Unluckily, it’s doubtful Rice gets a chance to prove himself.
In addition to his injury-riddled past, this year’s draft is incredibly deep at the wide receiver position. Draft analyst Mike Mayock agreed with this sentiment when he spoke to reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine, via Taylor Price of 49ers.com: “There’s more quality at the top of this draft that I’ve seen in a long time. It’s the best wide receiver class that I’ve seen in years.”
This, in turn, makes it clear that Rice doesn't have anything left to offer the Seahawks from a performance standpoint. Sure, he may be recovering faster than normal from his ACL surgery, but his better days are behind him.
Seattle will look to take advantage of the draft’s deep wide receiver class and replace Rice’s production with a younger, more affordable option. According to WalterFootball.com, the Seahawks have scheduled visits with the following wide receiver prospects: Brandin Cooks, Mike Evans, Cody Latimer and Jordan Matthews.
One should expect that list to grow in the coming weeks. With less than a month to go until the draft gets kicked off on May 8, the Seahawks will do everything in their power to scout their biggest position of need on the offensive side of the ball.
Nonetheless, there’s no guarantee the Seahawks will have the opportunity to draft one of the four receivers mentioned above. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report believes Cooks, Evans, Latimer and Matthews are all top-100 picks.
If Seattle does miss out on receiver early on in the draft, that’s the only scenario in which Rice returns to the Emerald City. Why? Because the Seahawks see Rice as a fallback option. It’s as simple as that.
The Seahawks would have already brought Rice back if they truly appreciated his services.
There comes a point in time when a particular player’s upside no longer outweighs the constant injuries. And it looks like that time has come for Rice. He had a good run with the Seahawks, but he’s no longer in a position to offer Seattle anything of real value.
The only thing he offers is instability and question marks.
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