An Appreciation of Sidney Rice

There are rumblings that Sidney Rice will be waived very soon.  This comes as zero surprise.  There’s a $7.3 million boost to the salary cap that comes with this move.  To show you how not-surprising this move is, literally every single time I’ve ever sat down to write about the Seahawks’ impending salary cap situation for 2014 and beyond, the very first thing I’ve done every time is go to Google and type “Sidney Rice overthecap” and hit “I’m Feeling Lucky”.

Ever wondered who uses the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button?  I’m your man!

I have a difficult time bad-mouthing anything the Seahawks have ever done in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider regime, since they went and won us a championship and everything.  But, I have a feeling that people are going to look at the career of Sidney Rice in a Seahawks’ uniform and say, “Well, that was a move that totally backfired!”

The Seahawks signed Sidney Rice coming into the 2011 season.  We were coming off of a 7-9 campaign that resulted in a division championship, a wild playoff victory over the Saints, and a predictable playoff defeat against the Bears.  He signed for 5 years and $41 million, with a $6 million signing bonus.  In his three years with the Seahawks, Sidney Rice earned $23.5 million of his $41 million deal; not too shabby for three years’ work.

The 2010 Seahawks were led in receptions and yards by Big Mike Williams (65 for 751 and 2 TDs), followed by Deon Butler, Ben Obomanu, John Carlson, and Brandon Stokley (all ranging between 30-36 receptions and 318-494 yards).  Suffice it to say, the Seahawks could use some help in their receiving corps.  Golden Tate was on the roster, but he was still a rookie in 2010, and two years away from starting to break out.

There were plenty of holes on that Seahawks team, and thanks to an unlikely Divisional Round playoff appearance, we were rewarded with a low first round draft pick.  Not only that, but the 2011 season came on the heels of the Lockout, so the time to sign players and get them ready for the season was ridiculously short.

And, I don’t know if you remember anything about the free agents in 2011, but here’s a smattering of names that were available:  Mike Sims-Walker, Antwaan Randle-El, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Torry Holt, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, Chris Chambers, Plaxico Burress, and Steve Breaston (and those are just the names I recognize).  We had our pick of a bunch of nobodies, and a bunch of those aforementioned, over-the-hill losers.

Truth be told, Sidney Rice was the pick of the litter.  Granted, they probably should have just drowned that litter and started over, but that’s neither here nor there.

An interesting name being floated around at the time was Vincent Jackson.  He was franchised by the Chargers in 2011 and was looking to get the hell out of there.  He was a disgruntled, super-talented receiver looking for greener grass, and the Seahawks had their eyes on him.  Of course, he would have cost us a buttload of draft picks on top of what would eventually be a 5-year $55 million deal (that he would go on to sign in Tampa the very next year), and at that point it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense for that Seahawks team (with that many holes they needed to fill through the draft) to give up draft capital just to bring in a superstar receiver.

So, the Seahawks got Sidney Rice.  And they got Zach Miller.  And those two moves sort of paid dividends, except Rice was injured through most of his first year here and ended up only playing in 9 games.  I would argue that his full participation in 2011 wouldn’t have made much of a difference, because we still weren’t that great of a football team, so I’m willing to overlook all of that.

Rice came back in 2012 and played in all 16 games, leading the team in receptions and yards.  Granted, they weren’t the greatest numbers in the world (50 for 748 and 7 TDs), but on that team, with how much we wanted to run the ball, those were indeed #1 receiver numbers.  I’d say in 2012 we got our money’s worth.

2013 was, once again, a disappointment, as Rice was only able to play in 8 games before tearing his ACL and losing out on our Super Bowl run.  Even in those 8 games, it’s hard to say he was living up to what was expected, as his numbers were WAY down compared to 2012.  That’s essentially while he was playing with the same receiving corps (Harvin and Rice never once played a down together at the same time last season).

If I’m sitting here objectively, looking at his totals over the last three seasons (97 receptions, 1,463 yards, 12 TDs, 33 of a possible 48 regular season games played), then no, there’s no way that type of production was worth $23.5 million.  97/1,463/12 are the type of numbers you’d expect out of a legitimate #1 receiver in a single season, not spread out over three.  And make no mistake, Sidney Rice was getting paid #1 receiver money.

But, here’s the thing:  what else were the Seahawks supposed to do?  Sidney Rice was the best-available option in a free agent class that could best be described as “slim pickin’s”.  We needed offensive firepower, because the previous regime left this team bereft.  And yes, Sidney Rice had injury concerns coming in (which turned out to be valid, given the number of games he missed with the Seahawks), but you have to figure that’s the cost of doing business.

Sidney Rice was never a bona fide #1 receiver for the Seahawks, but he was incredibly valuable in that 2012 run.  Likewise, once we lost him in 2013, our offense suffered tremendously.  Had the Seahawks lost in the playoffs, instead of all this joy in my heart, I would have written endlessly about how losing Sidney Rice was an underrated aspect in this past season falling apart.  Sidney Rice might have never been a true #1, but he made some catches that left my jaw on the floor.  And without him, I don’t think we would have seen near the progress in this offense from Russell Wilson’s first snaps onward.

It all boils down to football being a business.  Some fans feel a little jaded because this team paid all this money to a guy who did relatively little, but as I said before, it’s the price of doing business.  When you’re a bad team looking for a quick fix via free agency, that’s the price you have to pay to bring in talent.  Conversely, some players get upset because teams never honor their contracts.  The price of doing business:  if you’re over-compensated, you’re going to get the ax when your contract becomes too prohibitive.  Had Sidney Rice lived up to his #1 billing, then paying him a little under $20 million for the next two years would have been a relative bargain (or, at least commensurate to what he’s capable of producing).  Since he didn’t live up to his end, he’s gone.  So it goes.

Sidney Rice won’t go down as one of the greatest Seahawks wide receivers of all time, but that’s okay, because in the end we got our championship.  While he didn’t catch any game-winning touchdowns down the stretch, he was still a part of this team.  He was a part of turning around a franchise, from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.  For that, he’ll always be remembered fondly, at least in my book.

And, with this cap savings, you could say Sidney Rice is the gift that keeps on giving.  With this $7.3 million (not to mention the base salary of $9 million we won’t have to pay next year), we’ll be able to re-sign Michael Bennett.  Or extend Earl Thomas or Richard Sherman.  His sacrifice enables our greater good.  So, don’t kick the man on his way out of town.  Thank him for his hard work and wish him well in his next endeavor.  There’s no sense in being resentful when your team is getting fitted for championship rings as we speak.