NFL Free Agency: Sidney Rice and the 5 Biggest Injury Concerns

David KindervaterCorrespondent IMay 31, 2011

NFL Free Agency: Sidney Rice and the 5 Biggest Injury Concerns

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 20:  Sidney Rice #18 of the Minnesota Vikings against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on December 20, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Because of the ongoing NFL labor dispute, the typically popular period of free agency seems to be a distant memory. But when the two sides get down to settling their differences, NFL teams will entertain the possibilities on the open market.

    Here are five players whose 2010 injuries will be taken into consideration before their football future is decided upon.

Sidney Rice

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    MINNEAPOLIS - JANUARY 17:  Wide receiver Sidney Rice #18 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates while playing against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on January 17, 2010 in Minneapol
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Minnesota Vikings receiver Sidney Rice had a breakout season in 2009 as the Vikes rode future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre's arm all the way to the NFC Championship game. But a hip injury lingered into the offseason and eventually turned Rice's treatment to surgery.

    He wound up missing 10 games as a result.

    When Rice returned to the Vikings lineup, it was too late for the team to recover from their early and mid-season misfortunes. And their top receiver was not the same player he was in '09.

    On a positive note, Rice continued to display the remarkable ability to attack the football in flight and wound up with 17 catches for 280 yards and two touchdowns in five starts.

    With an offseason of rest and rehab, the 24-year-old Rice should be good to go in 2011.

    As a much sought-after free agent, NFL teams are hoping he can return to his 2010 form—83 receptions, 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns.

DeAngelo Williams

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 26:  DeAngelo Williams #34 of the Carolina Panthers against the Cincinnati Bengals during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    After two consecutive 1,000 yard seasons—and three straight years averaging over five yards per carry—Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams was hardly a factor in 2010.

    Williams started six games and managed a productive 361 yards on 81 carries (plus 11 receptions for 61 yards), but a mid-foot sprain would end his season early as he was eventually placed on injured reserve.

    With just four-and-a-half seasons under his belt, Williams still has a lot of tread left on his proverbial tires. Thus, he will be one of the top free agent running backs considered by NFL teams.

    The Panthers reportedly want Williams back, but look for the Broncos and Dolphins to make a strong play for his services.

Matt Hasselbeck

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16:  Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to throw the ball during pregame before taking on the Chicago Bears in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    So beaten and battered was Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck last year that he missed the decisive season finale against the St. Louis Rams for all the marbles in the NFC West.

    It was a win, led by backup QB Charlie Whitehurst, that sent the 7-9 Hawks to the playoffs. But Hasselbeck returned a week later to throw four touchdowns in an unforgettable Wild Card win over the then-defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

    That scenario is a capsule of what Hasselbeck brings to the table as a free agent QB in 2011.

    He could provide outstanding veteran leadership along with the mental and physical skills to lead an NFL team. But at 35 years old, his health remains a huge question mark.

Steve Smith

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 17:  Steve Smith #12 of the New York Giants against the Detroit Lions at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 17, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Like Sidney Rice, 2009 was a breakout year for NY Giants receiver Steve Smith, who collected 107 receptions for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns.

    Smith was well on his way to a repeat performance in 2010 before a knee injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

    Rehab is reportedly going well and Smith wants to remain in New York where the team has already shown signs of retaining his services. But there's no way of telling just how effective he will be until the Giants are able to hit the field and test his injury.

Willie Colon

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    TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Tackle Willie Colon #74 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Willie Colon started every game for three straight seasons before missing all of 2010 with a torn Achilles tendon suffered during offseason workouts.

    He is arguably the team's best offensive lineman and while there have been rumors that he will be moved to right guard if he returns to the Steelers, the team will likely do everything possible to keep Colon in the O-line mix no matter the position.