He had flashed potential as an outside threat with the Minnesota Vikings, catching 83 balls for 1,312 yards and a career-high eight touchdowns in 2009. The following year, he underwent hip surgery and played in only six games, but Seattle was willing to bet that his hurting hip would be worth the five-year, $41 million gamble, $18.5 million of which was guaranteed.
Going on his third season in Seattle, something is becoming glaringly clear: The Seahawks are losing their bet on Rice.
In 30 games since coming to the Northwest in 2011, an injury prone Rice has a combined 1,378 yards, or 46 yards per game, and 11 touchdowns.
Through the Seahawks' 4-1 start this year, their highest-paid receiver is third on the team in receptions with 10, behind Golden Tate's 18 and Doug Baldwin's 17. Rice also trails them in receiving yards -- Rice has 146 yards while Baldwin leads the team with 296 yards and Tate has 236 yards.
Rice is tied for the team lead with a pair of receiving touchdowns, but both came against a lowly Jacksonville team in Week 3.
Meanwhile, Jermaine Kearse, the homegrown talent and University of Washington product who underwent Lasik eye surgery in the offseason, has only four catches, but two of them were highlight-reel touchdowns. They also came at critical points on the road. One turned out to be the game-winner at Carolina in Week 1, while the other was a leaping, twisting catch in last week's 34-28 loss at Indianapolis. Kearse also blocked a punt in the latter game.
Rice, on the other hand, had one catch for 8 yards against the Colts' defense.
There's also the fact that Seattle's biggest offseason acquisition and Rice's teammate in Minnesota, Percy Harvin, is on track to return from hip surgery in a few weeks and will be its biggest threat lined up in the slot. You can guess which receiver, Harvin or Rice, is more explosive offensively.
All the numbers -- or lack thereof -- point to an uncomfortable reality for the Seahawks' coaching staff. In what's turning out to be a deep receiving corps that will include Tate, Baldwin, Kearse, Harvin and tight end Zach Miller, the Seahawks can't afford to wait for Rice to become a playmaker.
Kearse needs to see more playing time. Harvin will get playing time. Baldwin and Tate have proven that they deserve their playing time.
It's not that Rice hasn't played well for Seattle -- many fans remember the touchdown catch he made to secure the Seahawks' overtime victory in Chicago last year, despite being hit so hard his body actually stiffened in the end zone.
But while he has made a few memorable plays for Seattle, those plays haven't justified his contract. He was supposed to be the true outside threat that Seattle, for a litany of reasons, has lacked since the days of Joey Galloway.
Sorry Rice fans, but it's still lacking.
At this point, with an ailing offensive line and a quarterback who has been running for his life, the Seahawks need a receiving corps that presents the biggest aerial threat and can make plays. They are dangerous with Kearse and, eventually, Harvin running routes for Russell Wilson.
For a team with Super Bowl aspirations and a philosophy that places competition above everything else, it's time for Rice to either meet expectations or stand down to someone who can deliver on them.
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Brent Champaco is an award-winning writer who has covered professional, college and high school athletics in the Northwest. He has worked for several newspapers, including The News Tribune in Tacoma, and was a Senior Local Editor at Patch.com. He lives just outside of Seattle with his wife and two daughters. Follow him on Twitter at @Champacoblog.
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- Sidney Rice