Few fans of the Seattle Seahawks believe that wide receiver Sidney Rice will remain on his current contract. Signed to a five-year, $41 million deal in 2011, Rice has underwhelmed over his three seasons with the Seahawks. He has missed 15 of a possible 48 games, and is currently rehabbing from a torn ACL. Even when he's been on the field, he hasn't been nearly the consistent threat that they thought they were getting nearly three years ago, after flashing some brilliance during his time with the Minnesota Vikings.
Despite how little love Seattle is showing Rice right now, it appears that he still believes it's one of the best destinations for any soon-to-be free agents.
"When I first arrived, we never really got any respect over here, and we felt like people kind of ignored us," wide receiver Sidney Rice said this week, via NFL Media columnist Michael Silver. "As you see now, more and more people are coming in this direction... It's basically word of mouth. This is where you want to be. And when guys get here, they always end up asking, "Why didn't I come here earlier?" And then they never want to leave."
When Rice came to the Seahawks, he was recovering from a shoulder injury. He had only played in six games the year before, but with Brett Favre in 2009, he had a career year: 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns. But Rice has not been able to come close to those numbers again.
His best season with Seattle was in 2012, when he played in all 16 games and caught 50 passes for 748 yards. While his midair acrobatics and impressive ball skills have been on display at times, he either can't stay healthy or can't get open often enough to be an important factor game to game. By releasing Rice, the Seahawks won't only save over $7 million in cap space next season per OvertheCap.com, they'll open up a roster spot for someone else.
Being an attractive destination for free agents was well on display during the last offseason.
The Seahawks acquired wide receiver Percy Harvin from the Vikings in a trade and then immediately signed him to a contract extension. On the open market, they acquired defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett at a fraction of the cost most expected them to receive in free agency. Bennett was only signed to a one-year deal, but his impact on the defense this year is likely to fetch him a lot more money on the market during this offseason. By parlaying one good year into a multi-year contract, it's another reason to expect others to do the same in 2014.
Seattle is one of four teams still alive to win the Super Bowl, and one of the best ways to get more money in free agency is to say that you're a "champion." If players see the Seahawks as a contender every season, and that seems likely with a stable of talented young players like Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, it could make the pipeline continue to flow in and out of the Northwest for several more years to come.
It's unfortunate that Rice could very well be headed the wrong direction in that pipeline, but then again if he's released, he will be a free agent. I wonder how much of him is hoping that his next contract is with the Seahawks too.