Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Time to Move Rice

Following a Brett Favre-aided break-out season in which he recorded 83 receptions for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns, Minnesota Vikings' wide receiver Sidney Rice stewed. He stewed because, in 2010, he was slated to earn $550,000--good money for the average American over the course of a lifetime, but slight by NFL high-end receiver standards.

Rice's solution, almost certainly championed by his agent Drew Rosenhaus, was to use Rice's lingering hip injury and the necessary corrective surgery, surgery that Rice could have had several weeks ago, as bargaining leverage for gaining Rice a revamped contract. This week, following the Vikings' decision not to renegotiate the receiver's contract, Rice informed the Vikings that he was undergoing surgery that will result in his missing eight weeks or more of the season.

The initial response to Rice's revelation was that the Vikings had overplayed their hand. Already faced with a suspect situation with Percy Harvin's recurring and debilitating migraines, the Vikings appeared in desperate need not only of the return of last year's leading receiver but also of an infusion of talent at the receiver position. Without such an infusion currently on the radar, Rice appeared particularly critical to the team's 2010 prospects.

That's what Rice and Rosenhaus assumed. They also presumably assumed that the ploy was infallible with the worst-case scenario for Rice being that the receiver could return after surgery, prove his value, and work a big contract.

That plan could and should backfire, however, if the Vikings have even modest fortitude.

Prior to Favre's arrival in Minnesota last season, I penned an article detailing the success of receivers who had the privilege of playing with Brett Favre. That was no startling revelation, but, rather, yet another justification for bringing Favre onto a team replete with mediocre receivers. It therefore appeared to be no coincidence that Rice became a player in 2009 when, previously, he had been little more than a wallflower with the team.

In the business of selling high, the Vikings hold far more cards than does Rice. The next move for Minnesota is either to release Rice--a move that would be vindictive without reward, or, far better, to trade the receiver for another team's damaged goods. And what better trade to make than Rice for San Diego wide receiver Vincent Jackson?

At 27, Jackson has posted consecutive 1,000-yard receiving years, averaging eight touchdowns over the past two years--numbers comparable to Rice's. That would seem to make Jackson a long-term target for the Chargers, but Jackson and the Chargers have had their own differences regarding contract terms and Jackson's three-game suspension to start the 2010 season has only further driven a wedge between the two parties.

Rice for Jackson thus looks like a good move for both teams, particularly if the Chargers are intent on finding Jackson's replacement this year, as they have indicated. And it allows the Vikings to give back to Rosenhaus some of what he has begat.

Up Next: Moneyball.

1 comment:

klasker said...

I think this is pretty brilliant analysis, but unfortunate that he just had surgery so doubt D.Jackson is viable anymore. Thanks for your take. Sounds like 2 of 3 advisors told him he could still play, but he decided to have the surgery anyway.