A while back I checked out a few potential free agent targets for the Rams
who, unfortunately, looked to be heading for franchise tag limbo. (Or maybe franchise tag purgatory. Some alternate plane of existence, anyway.) On the list was Sidney Rice
, currently of the Minnesota Vikings
and second most accomplished receiver due to become a free agent this year.
Of course, he's only due to be a free agent this year if there is, in fact, free agency, a fact which I am becoming increasingly tired of being forced to note every time the issue of who the Rams might look into signing comes up. I think I'm going to start just using an acronym instead of pointing out the whole free agency issue. Maybe just throw ITIFAAA (If There Is Free Agency At All), out there whenever talking about potential free agents.
So, back to Sidney Rice, who appeared likely to receive the transition tag from the Vikings. In a very sensible move, Minnesota has decided to slap the franchise tag on linebacker Chad Greenway
. It also appears, according to the current CBA, that teams can only use the transition tag on players with at least six full years of service time, which Rice does not. Thus, it appears Sidney Rice will be heading for free agency after all. ITIFAAA.
(See? That works. You know what I'm talking about, and I'm saved from having to type out the whole thing about free agency not being guaranteed to happen. Of course, typing this out has now robbed me of any word savings I was banking with the acronym.)
I say it was a wise decision to franchise Greenway instead of Rice because, depending on the terms of the next collective bargaining agreement, Rice may only have enough service time to make him a restricted free agent, meaning the Vikings would receive compensation from any team who signs him, whereas Greenway would have been an unrestricted free agent. Thus, the Vikings may be able to get something for Rice if he leaves, whereas that wasn't an option with Greenway.
So considering the Rams' need at wide receiver (and also considering the fact very few receivers made much of an impact right out of the gate when drafted), how interested should they be in Rice? Well, it partly depends on whether he ends up restricted or not; if you have to pay for him in both dollars and draft picks he becomes much, much less attractive.
Beyond the issue of just what sort of free agent Rice may be, though (ITIFAAA), there are some injury concerns with him. He missed a large portion of the 2010 season, playing in only six games, and appeared somewhat limited when he did play by both a hip injury and a concussion. Still, his talent is undeniable, and would offer the Rams a dimension they were sorely lacking in the passing game in 2010.
If Rice hits the market as a restricted free agent I don't see much chance at all of the Rams making a serious play for him. This team is still too much in the building phase to be giving up draft picks. You could argue bringing in Rice would give the team a bigger boost than most draft picks, but it's tough to say that for certain. I personally would expect the Rams to look at resigning Mark Clayton and trying to figure out just what they have at wide receiver in 2011 with a healthy Donnie Avery and a full season of Clayton and Danario Alexander. Even if Rice goes to free agency unrestricted I honestly don't see the Rams coming away with him. Then again, it's also possible Rice could look around, take stock of all the potential landing spots, and decide he wouldn't mind catching passes from Sam Bradford for the next four or five seasons.