8:17pm: Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer confirms (via Twitter) that the Panthers will make a run at Rice “if the price is right.” Echoing those sentiments, Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer writes that there are several hurdles standing in the way of a Rice-to-Carolina deal. Aside from Rice’s troubling injury history, Jones points out that the Panthers are only $1.57MM under the salary cap and will need roughly $4.5MM to sign their draft picks (the team is still exploring restructures with players already on the roster to clear some cap room). As such, Rice would be a fit in Carolina “only at a discount.”
3:25pm: Despite the Giants being identified as a club with interest in Rice, Jordan Raanan of NJ.com suggests (via Twitter) they’re “extreme long shots” to land the receiver.
2:45pm: Following a visit with Dr. James Andrews, free agent receiver Sidney Rice has received clearance to resume football activities, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Rice himself confirmed that news, via Twitter, later this afternoon. Now that the veteran receiver has been medically cleared, his market could develop quickly. Florio reports that the Seahawks have interest in bringing back Rice, but that at least three other NFC teams – the Saints, Giants, and Panthers – are also in the mix.
Rice, 27, has missed time with injuries in many of his NFL seasons, including 2013. He started all 16 games for the Seahawks in 2012, but finished the season with fairly modest numbers — 50 receptions, 748 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns. While he may never again match the Pro Bowl numbers he posted in 2009 (83 catches, 1,312 yards), if he stays healthy and finds the right fit, the former second-round pick could still have a positive impact for an NFL team.
The Saints were identified last month as a likely suitor for Rice, and the Seahawks have reportedly had interest all along in bringing their former receiver back at a reduced rate. The Jets were also previously linked to Rice, but it seems as if they’re not seriously in the hunt at this point, perhaps because they’re focusing on the draft to further fortify their receiving corps.