Maybe the Vikings knew what they were doing when they opted out of giving Sidney Rice a huge contract last year when he became an unrestricted free agent.
Rice, who spent his first four seasons with the Vikings, has played all 16 games just once in his career — his breakout 2009 season when he caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns. In his other three seasons combined, he missed 16 of 48 games, catching 63 passes for 817 yards and 10 touchdowns in the other 32 games that he played.
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Rice was an injury concern at the time the Vikings were contemplating whether to give him the monster contract he and his agent were seeking. The Vikings balked at the contract demands and Seattle stepped up with a five-year, $41 million deal that included $18.5 million in guarantees — the real sticking point for the Vikings. This is the same Seahawks organization that saved the Vikings millions of dollars by giving a huge contract to over-the-hill wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh — a decision that helped force the Vikings’ hand to draft Percy Harvin in 2009.
One of the reasons cited for the Vikings not making a huge financial commitment to Rice was that there was a legitimate concern about his long-term health. Behind the scenes, there were whispers that one of the factors in not re-signing Rice was the decision made by Rice and agent Drew Rosenhaus not to inform the team about the severity of his hip injury in 2010 that required surgery. Rice delayed the decision to have surgery until the day after Brett Favre announced that he would return to the Vikes in 2010 — a decision Favre might not have made had he known Rice wasn’t going to be there when he came back. Rice would play in just six games in 2010 and was never a factor.
In his first season with Seattle, Rice didn’t live up to expectations or earn his $8 million a year contract. He played in just nine games, catching 32 passes for 482 yards and two touchdowns. While those numbers were pedestrian at best, the receptions and yards represented the second-highest single-season totals of his five-year career.
Has Rice simply been a victim of circumstance or is his just one of those players whose career will be derailed by injuries? Perhaps the latter is going to be the case.
When he signed with Seattle last year, Rice was injured before he could play his first preseason game. He got his legs tangled with defensive back Marcus Trufant and that kept him out the first two games of the season. After suffering two concussions in a three-game span, Rice was placed on injured reserve in December. It was only then that the full extent of Rice’s bodily breakdown was analyzed.
Seattle finished its 2012 mandatory minicamp Thursday and, once again, Rice was unavailable. He has yet to be cleared for contact after having surgery on both shoulders this offseason by surgeon to the stars Dr. James Andrews. The first surgery was on his right shoulder, where he had 11 anchors surgically implanted in the shoulder to stabilize the joint. Less than two months later, he underwent an identical procedure on his left shoulder — installing 11 more anchors in that shoulder.
Rice was at the Seattle minicamp, but did little more than catch a few passes on the sidelines. He said he is on pace in his rehab to be ready for the start of the 2012 season, but, for the second straight year, isn’t able to work with his quarterbacks to work on his timing. While he has experience working with Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson, T-Jack isn’t expected to be the starter after the Seahawks signed Packers backup QB Matt Flynn. Rice has yet to work out with Flynn in drills or OTAs and has quickly fallen behind his wide receiver teammates.
Perhaps the Vikings knew what they were doing when they didn’t re-sign Rice to the huge contract he was seeking. Rice has a surgically repaired hip and two replacement shoulders — three body parts deemed quite necessary for a wide receiver. He may never be the player that he was in the magical 2009 season when he caught just about everything Favre threw his way. At the time the Vikings had to contemplate whether they would sign him or franchise him, there was speculation that perhaps Rice was a “one-hit wonder” in 2009. It would appear that thinking may have been correct.
Thanks to the Seahawks, the Vikings didn’t waste tens of millions of dollars on Houshmandzadeh, who was unceremoniously cut after one dismal season in Seattle. It appears as though the Seahawks have also saved the Vikings tens of millions of dollars by signing Rice.