Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sidney the Seachicken

In four seasons as a Minnesota Viking, Sidney Rice scored 18 touchdowns. Yesterday, he was rewarded with $18.5M in guaranteed cash from the Seattle Seahawks. In a nutshell, Rice's 2009 breakout was so impressive that agent Drew Rosenhaus found a sucker willing to anti up a gaudy five-year, $41M deal for a guy with one great season smashed between three injury-plagued disasters.

Rice's first two seasons were marked by underachievement and knee injuries. After stealing his paychecks in 2007 and 2008, Rice showed his true colors on the heals of his 2009 breakout.

Assisted by what may have been Brett Favre's greatest season, Rice tallied 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight scores. With one year still left on his contract, Rice demanded a raise from the Vikings. The team wisely declined, and instead of building upon his first professional effort in the league, Rice and Rosenhaus chose to leverage his newfound production into a contractual ploy.

In February of 2010, against the advice of two medical professionals, Doctor Drew advised Rice to put his hip surgery on the back burner. Not only would the move hold the team hostage, but it would preserve Rice's 2009 market value without risk of further injury or decline in production. Essentially, he chose to skip the 2010 season in order to render 2009 his default "contract year."

That's right, Sidney Rice chose to skip a season for a team seemingly on the doorstep of a Super Bowl.

Rice did return for six games down the stretch last year, after the Vikings' Super Bowl dreams were flushed, showing potential suitors that the surgery was behind him and he was ready to play. He caught lightening in a bottle with an impressive 5/105/2 outing in Week 13 against a dreadful Buffalo secondary, overshadowing the other five games in which he totaled 12/175/0 and looked like a stiff shell of his 2009 form.

That brings us to yesterday's payday.

Make no mistake, I absolutely wanted the 6'4", 202-lb wideout back in purple. Despite very real injury concerns, and the fact that well over half of his four-year career production came in just one season, the Vikings needed the threat of him on the outside. If healthy, his size, leaping ability, hands, body control and hand-eye coordination are invaluable. I would have loved to see the Vikings sign him to an incentive-laden, "prove it" contract.

It's obvious now that such a deal wasn't going to happen.

Rice's decision to sit last season speaks volumes about his true intentions. How will a guy who's proven to be more motivated by money than competition react to his first big pay day? What will be his incentive to fight through injuries and go the extra mile to corral wayward Tarvaris Jackson passes?

With multiple knee injuries, a surgically repaired hip, and just one productive season in his back pocket, Rice's departure could very well end up being a blessing in disguise for the Vikings. Like the seven-year, $49M deal the Seahawks gave to Nate Burleson in 2006, I fully expect Seattle to regret this signing in time.

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