Why the Carolina Panthers are a great fit for former Pro Bowler Sidney Rice

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Free agent wide receiver Sidney Rice was recently cleared for football activities by Dr. James Andrews after tearing his ACL on October 28th. The former Minnesota Viking and Seattle Seahawk is a free agent and is reportedly considering the Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, and the Carolina Panthers according to Pro Football Talk.

Rice would be an excellent addition for Carolina. The Panthers have made some nice under the radar moves at receiver this offseason but have yet to find that dominant number one receiver that Steve Smith was. Rice is not that player, but has proven that he has the talent to provide decent production (particularly in 2009 when he made the Pro Bowl) which is all Carolina needs right now.

Ron Rivera has said that they aren’t looking to replace a do it all number one receiver but the 10 catches per game from the receiving corps. Add Sidney Rice to a group that now includes Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, and Tiquan Underwood and Carolina will have more than replaced that 10 catches per game. In fact, adding Rice would likely cement the 2014 receiving corps as better than the 2013 group overall particularly when you factor in the addition of a second pass catching tight end.

Just as important, signing the 27-year old Rice would free up the Panthers to dedicate their early draft picks to offensive linemen and cornerbacks.

Carolina has just $1.57 million in cap room, but could clear some space by cutting Charles Godfrey who has become more expendable recently. Rice signed a 5 year $41 million deal with the Seahawks in 2011 but won’t command that type of money here given his disappointing season and coming off of a torn ACL. The Panthers could also benefit from a “hometown discount” as Rice grew up in Gaffney, South Carolina and played at the University of South Carolina.

Given his age, it’s possible Rice would be interested in signing a one or two year “prove it” deal that we’ve seen Dave Gettleman give out to players such as Mike Mitchell, Ted Ginn Jr., and Drayton Florence. Mitchell and Ginn Jr. played well last season and were rewarded by signing big contracts this offseason. At 27, the door is closing on Rice signing another large contract. A strong season or two with Cam Newton could provide just the opportunity he needs.

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