NFL Free Agency 2011: Setting the Odds on 10 Teams That Will Target Sidney Rice
Of the countless wide receivers on the 2011 NFL free agent market, one man reigns supreme: Sidney Rice.
Sure, you have guys like Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Steve Smith (the Giants version) and Randy Moss out there.
But no one possesses the upside of the 24-year-old Rice, who's still got most of his career ahead of him and has all the physical skills you look for in a stud wideout.
And the former South Carolina Gamecock will be pursued like the hot chick at the bar this offseason.
So let's take a look at the 10 likeliest teams who will/should/have to target Rice in free agency this offseason.
10. Buffalo Bills
Buffalo's Steve Johnson made fantasy football players across the country quite happy with his breakout 2010 season, in which racked up 82 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns.
But after him there was a huge drop-off in production, as the Bills' second-leading receiver was Lee Evans, who caught just 37 passes and four touchdowns.
He was followed by Roscoe Parrish, who caught only 33 passes and got into the end zone just twice.
Though Johnson and Evans are among the league's better receivers, Parrish thrives primarily in the return game, and the Bills would benefit from adding another top-notch receiver to their passing attack.
Rice, Johnson and Evans? Count me in.
9. Tennessee Titans
When Kenny Britt was healthy in 2010, he was so good that Tennessee completely forgot about throwing the ball to Randy Moss.
But even if Britt plays that well again in 2011, the Titans still need a boatload of help at the wide receiver position.
Tennessee's second-leading wideout in 2010, Nate Washington, caught just 42 passes, while no other Titans receiver had more than 20 receptions or one touchdown.
Unless Chris Johnson goes off again and the Titans get a ton of production out of their tight ends, that type of poor play from the WR position isn't going to translate to a lot of wins next season.
The Titans need to add another starting-caliber receiver, either through the draft or free agency, and Sidney Rice would give them the a big 1-2-3 punch at the position, with Rice (6'4"), Britt (6'3") and Washington (6'1").
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Josh Freeman exploded onto the scene in 2010, combining with rookie receiver Mike Williams to form a sick QB-WR duo that'll scare opposing NFL teams for years to come.
But after Williams (65 receptions and 11 touchdowns), no other receiver had more than 25 receptions (Arrelious Benn) or two touchdowns (Benn and Sammie Stroughter).
Actually, eight players not named Mike Williams caught at least one TD pass, but they only combined for 14 total TD catches.
Now that teams have more game tape on Freeman and Williams, those two aren't going to put up eye-popping numbers unless they get some help from Tampa Bay's supporting cast.
Though Stroughter and Benn have shown some potential, the Buccaneers could benefit from adding another big-time threat in the passing game.
And a Sidney Rice-Williams-Benn trio would be scary good.
7. Cincinnati Bengals
From Jordan Shipley to Jerome Simpson to Andre Caldwell, Cincinnati will have plenty of talented wide receivers next season, even though Terrell Owens won't be back and Chad Ochocinco might not be.
But how sure are the Bengals that any of those guys are No. 1 receivers in the NFL?
I'm not sure any of them are, and it's never a good idea to have a guy who, at the absolute best, is a No. 2 wideout as your No. 1 option in the passing game.
So, unless the Bengals draft A.J. Green with the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft, they could/should/will be looking to find a top-tier receiver to make up for the production of Owens and possibly Ochocinco.
And Sidney Rice would be one heck of a replacement for both Owens and Ochocinco as a bigger receiver with a ridiculous amount of playmaking ability.
6. Carolina Panthers
You'd have to come up with a new word to describe how terrible the Panthers offense was in 2010.
But why was Carolina so incredibly awful on that side of the ball?
Well, no one would call you a liar if you said it was because of the team's wide receivers.
Carolina's top three receivers—Steve Smith, David Gettis and Brandon LeFell--combined for just 121 receptions, 1,530 yards and six touchdowns.
To put that into perspective, Atlanta's Roddy White had 115 receptions for 1,389 yards and 10 touchdowns. And he's just one guy.
The Panthers don't have a choice--they need to add another top-notch receiver to take the pressure off Smith and open the field for Gettis and LeFell, who don't have much NFL experience
Imagine pairing Smith next to Sidney Rice. I bet that would really help out Jimmy Clausen (or whoever's playing QB for Carolina this season).
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last season, Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis emerged as one of the NFL's premier red zone targets and touchdown threats, and both Mike Thomas and Mike Sims-Walker put up solid numbers at wide receiver for Jacksonville as well.
But after those three guys, the next best pass catchers were running backs Rashad Jennings and Maurice Jones-Drew, with the team's No. 3 wideout, Jason Hill, catching only 11 passes all season.
And now, Sims-Walker's time in Jacksonville appears to be over, which means the Jags have to get another receiver to pair alongside Thomas.
Thomas is only 5'8", so Sidney Rice would be the perfect compliment.
Big on one side, small on the other.
4. Cleveland Browns
If "Major Wide Receiver Problems" was a reality TV show, the Cleveland Browns would be the star.
Last season the Browns top two pass catchers were tight end Benjamin Watson (68 receptions) and running back Peyton Hillis (61).
There was a huge gap between Hillis and the team's top receiver, Chansi Stuckey, who caught just 40 passes for 346 yards and zero touchdowns.
Mohamed Massaquoi also had 36 receptions, while Brian Robiskie (29) and Josh Cribbs (23) were the only other contributors to Cleveland's passing game who are even worth mentioning.
The Browns are probably hoping to select Georgia WR A.J. Green with the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL Draft to address those pass-catching problems.
But if he's already off the board, Sidney Rice isn't a bad Plan B.
3. Chicago Bears
Things could definitely be a lot worse in Chicago, as the Bears have a decent cast of wide receivers with Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox.
But Hester and Knox are sprinters/burners/speedsters more than they are pure receivers, while Bennett can't exactly call himself a No. 1 wideout.
In fact, despite their big play abilities, neither of those three receivers caught more than 51 passes or five touchdowns last season, and none of them are over 6'0'' tall.
This is where Sidney Rice comes in.
The 6'4", 202-pounder would instantly become Chicago's top receiver, and his presence on the field would really open up the passing game for Knox, Hester and Bennett, whose skill sets are better served as No. 2 or No. 3 receivers.
2. St. Louis Rams
The 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Sam Bradford has the look and feel of a franchise quarterback and—dare I say it?—a bona fide NFL superstar.
But the only way St. Louis can make sure that Bradford continues to produce is to get him some help in the passing game.
The Rams' top wide receiver in 2010, Danny Amendola, caught a very impressive 85 passes but had just 689 receiving yards and three touchdown receptions.
Meanwhile, no other Rams receiver caught more than 53 passes, had more than 620 receiving yards or caught more than two touchdown passes.
While Brandon Gibson showed some upside, the Rams don't have much on their roster after he and Amendola.
You have to think that St. Louis is seriously considering adding Sidney Rice, who probably makes the Rams the team to beat in the NFC West in 2011.
1. Oakland Raiders
I get it—the Raiders have Michael Bush and Darren McFadden at running back, so they like to run the ball pretty often and rely on the tight end when they do throw.
But it's still surprising that Oakland's top two pass catchers from 2010 don't even play wide receiver.
Tight end Zach Miller led the team with 60 receptions, while running back Darren McFadden was second with 47 catches.
Of the Raiders wide receivers, Louis Murphy had the most receptions (41), and he was followed by Darrius Heyward-Bey (26), Jacoby Ford (25) and Johnnie Lee Higgins (10).
Where's the production from the WRs?
I don't know, but there's no way Oakland's going to win the AFC West next season without adding a No.1—caliber receiver.
There are other options out there, but Sidney Rice provides the rare combination of youth and experience.