While 12 teams enter the NFL playoffs this weekend, the other 20 teams have already began their offseason plans. For the Minnesota Vikings, this offseason will be one of major changes for a team that was the favorite to win the NFC North this season, but instead found themselves finishing with a 6-10 record.
Missing Sidney Rice for the first 10 games of the season was not very helpful for the Vikings. Rice had hip surgery which kept him off the field until Week 11 when Minnesota's season was already over.
Now, Rice will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and Minnesota faces a major decision.
In the 2009 season, Rice was amongst the best wide receivers in the NFL, compiling 1312 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. In 2010, Rice was clearly not the same player coming back from injury, but it is tough to make a clear judgment considering who his quarterbacks were.
When asked about the possibility of returning to the Vikings, Rice responded "We haven't even discussed anything about contract. I'm just keeping my ear open and listen to what the team has to say. I don't mind being here. I was drafted here, I love the people here, the fans."
That doesn't sound like Rice is too interested in giving Minnesota a discount. Rice will go where the money is and that may or may not be Minnesota. The Vikings already will have to commit a nice chunk of money to retaining Chad Greenway and Ray Edwards.
Since Rice has only one solid season under his belt, Minnesota may be hesitant to give him a long-term contract. A more realistic possibility is a franchise tag, although even a one-year contract at that price may not be worth it.
So where else could Rice land?
There is a big need for a No. 1 wide receiver for several teams. The Tennessee Titans have showed their willingness to take a risk on a wide receiver earlier this year with Randy Moss.
The Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams are teams that could use a wide receiver to push them to the next level. The Cincinnati Bengals could be losing both Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, which may make them open to pursuing Rice.
Right now, there is around a 50 percent chance that Rice stays in Minnesota. With his talent, however, it is going to take a lot for the Vikings to keep him.
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