Sidney Rice (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
The Vikings made a contract offer to Sidney Rice, but according to ESPN, Rice’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, says the receiver will wait to test the free-agent waters.
Sidney Rice is taking advice again. The last time, it didn’t work out as hoped. This time, there is a similar sense of uncertainty.
There was plenty of speculation in August when, shortly after Brett Favre was bagged and tagged by three teammates and airlifted back to Minnesota, Rice announced that he would need hip surgery that would sideline him three months.
Almost immediately, fingers pointed the way of superagent Drew Rosenhaus, who has Rice among his client roster. There was the belief that the Vikings were dragging their feet on doing a contract extension following Rice’s breakout 2009 season. It was Rosenhaus who first drew attention to Rice’s hip injury in June of 2010, something that apparently (at least publicly) came as news to then-head coach Brad Childress. Childress claimed that, when the season ended, Rice didn’t show the signs of a hip injury and hinted that the decision to hold off informing the team may have been a contract ploy. Had he been under a long-term contract, he would have had the surgery earlier and been ready for the 2010 season. The team didn’t come forward with a contract and, as it turned out, Rice didn’t come forward with the severity of his hip injury up until the time he shut it down and had surgery.
With a less-than-100 percent Favre missing his top weapon, he struggled early and, by the time Rice returned, the 2010 season was already in the tank and the Dr. Randy and Mr. Moss saga had come to an abrupt end – costing the Vikings a third-round draft pick and Childress his membership in the head coaching fraternity.
Still, new head coach Leslie Frazier and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman both went on record as saying that signing Rice to the long-term contract he wants was an organizational priority. They backed up that wish with a contract offer, but, according to an ESPN report, Rosenhaus advised Rice to decline the offer and enter free agency when the current CBA expires Thursday night.
The problem with the advice may be the same as the previous advice of postponing surgery and hoping his hip would heal – it might backfire.
Prior to 2010, players with four years of NFL experience could become unrestricted free agents. When the owners announced they were opting out of the current CBA, the terms of an uncapped year kicked in – raising the years of service needed to become a UFA, going from four to six.
Although it is expected that the free-agent bargaining chip will be dropped back to four years when a new CBA kicks in, it could become a compromise point for another issue the players union is looking for. If the new CBA would place unrestricted free agency up to five years (again, this isn’t expected to happen, but strange things happen during negotiation processes), Rice would be a restricted free agent and the Vikings could tender him with an offer requiring lower compensation than a long-term contract would and the ability to match any offer.
With unknowns on the NFL horizon, being able to pocket a significant signing bonus would have short-term security for Rice and his family. By opting out, he is rolling the dice on getting either a bigger offer from the Vikings or a potential blockbuster offer on the open market.
It’s a risk, but once again, one that Rice (and Rosenhaus) seem willing to make.
It would seem as though the Vikings won’t be alone in not getting a big contract done before the CBA deadline Thursday. The Indianapolis Colts are convinced they will get a deal done with Peyton Manning to keep him with the team, but Tom Condon, Manning’s agent, said nothing is “imminent.” Given the timetable, it could be a long time before the two sides start talking after Thursday.
Alabama running back Mark Ingram may have seriously hurt his draft stock after running a dismal 4.62 40 at the Combine. While it was known that Ingram isn’t a speed merchant, it was a disappointing time considering that six running backs ran two tenths of a second faster or better.
For those fans who want Cam Newton to land with the Vikings, his performance at the Combine may give them hope. Most draft analysts have him going in the top 10 picks – ESPN’s well-coiffed Mel Kiper currently has him going third overall to Buffalo, while others are projecting anywhere from Arizona at No. 5 to Washington at No. 10. Newton struggled (at times badly) during his workout in Indy, which could bode well for those who want him to end up in purple. However, when given the chance to set the terms at his pro day next week, his stock will likely rise again.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.