Wide Receiver Sidney Rice was recently cleared by doctors following his ACL tear, and he finds himself without a team. Though he won’t get the kind of money he did from Seattle after his breakout performances in Minnesota, he is sure to attract some attention on the open market. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers find themselves with a very weak receiving corps after trading away Mike Williams to Buffalo. Pro bowler Vincent Jackson is still the number one guy, but after him there are guys like Louis Murphy, Lavelle Hawkins, and Skye Dawson. Not exactly the type of guys that strike fear into the hearts of defenses across the league. The Bucs are sure to draft at least one receiver in the upcoming NFL Draft, but they should strongly consider bringing in Sidney Rice.
Rice, who did not live up to his contract in Seattle, could be a very viable option at the number two position this season. They could get him for close to the veteran minimum based on recent performance, and give him an opportunity to revitalize his career. As the top option in Seattle he quickly showed that he is not a legitimate number one. But across from Jackson, and whichever rookie they may take, Rice could prove he can still get the job done. In Tampa, fans have seen guys towards the end of their career become offensive weapons, such as Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. Rice can provide that same kind of presence for 2014.
The Bucs are sitting with $12.8 million in cap space right now, so they still have the money to make moves. The receivers they’ve brought in so far may not even make it through training camp. that’s not to say Rice would either, but he has proven to be a productive player in the past. With the pressure off of him to be the “go-to guy”, he may be able to reproduce some of that success. It’s something that Jeff Tedford, Lovie Smith, and Jason Licht need to strongly consider going forward. Especially with the ability to get a team friendly deal for this season in a “prove you’re worth the investment” situation.
The Bucs aren’t the only team that’s sure to have interest in Rice. Carolina is also in need of receivers after sending Steve Smith on his way. The Pittsburgh Steelers are still thin at receiver as well. The market for Rice may not begin to materialize until after the draft, when teams are able to draft guys and lock them up for 4-5 years with very team friendly deals under the rookie wage scale. But Rice will surely land on a roster before mini-camps begin. It’s just a matter of where.