Rice was originally drafted third overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the
1996 NFL Draft, but is probably best known for his years in Tampa since
that is where he recorded 67.5 of his 121 career sacks and won the Super Bowl.
After becoming a Buccaneer during Tony Dungy's final season in Tampa Bay back in 2001, his six-year stint with the team ended when he refused to take a pay cut after spending the bulk of 2006 on injured reserve.
with Denver in September. But, like many defensive linemen Mike Shanahan
has signed or traded for, Rice and the Broncos coach did not see eye-to-eye. Rice was playing left end instead of his natural right end position and was
starting to lose snaps to second year pro Elvis Dumervil. As a result, Rice asked for and
was granted his release on November 9.
While many would speculate that Rice is "damaged goods," he did record 14
sacks as recently as 2005 and still possesses much of the quickness
that made him dangerous as a younger player. The former Buccaneer was on IR last season because of
a shoulder injury, not a leg injury. Truth be told, Shanahan does not
have the best track record with defensive linemen, though Dumervil is doing
very well this season in a starting role.
Rice has been to three Pro Bowls, trails only Michael Strahan among active career leaders in sacks, and is familiar with Dungy's flavor of the Cover 2 —
especially what is required of the right end in that scheme. He
essentially played in the same scheme at the same position under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin in
Tampa — they don't call it the "Tampa 2" for nothing — and the results
cannot be argued with.
Dungy and the Colts were previously able to take a talented former star
who was languishing and returning from injury on a bad squad and turn him
around with a midseason transaction in the past. That player, Anthony McFarland, when healthy, is one of the best 4-3 defensive tackles in the league.
Rice is older than McFarland and is heading in a different direction
in his career. However, he was steadily improving in run support before
the injury, still has a good initial burst, a competent swim move, and
presents at least a bit of a matchup problem for any left tackle in the league.
He's not Dwight Freeney, but he should be able to fill in for the talented
young Colts star until Freeney is whole again — and fresh for a hopeful playoff run. And there's always the possibility that he
will be rejuvenated by a change of scenery, a winning environment, and that
he'll catch the first few gentlemen he lines up across from by surprise.
That type of jolt from a veteran presence like Rice could help to not only
rejuvenate him, but the entire defense.
Then again, he could be an aging defensive end who has lost a step, was
never that big to begin with, and was cut by a losing team after managing
only 7 tackles and no sacks or forced fumbles in nine games.
If nothing else, he's more accomplished at his position than anyone healthy the Colts have on the roster. And Indianapolis is only responsible for the $337,647 left on his contract
with the Broncos. That's not a bad deal at all to help bridge the gap.