On paper it's a match made in heaven- a 24 year old former 1,000 yard receiver from South Carolina, a former Gamecock, who will be available through free agency in a year the Carolina Panthers have to spend money to hit the salary floor.
This is the case with the Minnesota Vikings' Sidney Rice who will likely test free agency and become one of the top WR available this offseason. ESPN's Matt Williamson thinks the Panthers will pursue Rice heavily (top of the hat to bigred28655 for his fanpost), but is it realistic to think the front office will drop top money on a WR this off-season? I don't think so.
I'll give you 5 reasons why I don't think the Panthers will take the plunge...
After the jump
1. There are bigger fish to fry
Here I'm essentially applying the same argument the Carolina Panthers did when selecting Cam Newton with the #1 overall pick. At the time of the draft the Panthers had a lot of needs at CB and DT, however they saw the position of most need as quarterback and elected to pass on other positions of need to fix their offense.
I think the Panthers would pass on getting an elite WR to sign a DT or CB, and there's only so many dollars to go around after they resign their own players.
Granted, none of these players are of the same caliber as Sidney Rice, but between these four players they have only three years NFL experience. Signing Rice is tantamount to saying that at least two of these guys don't have a real future on the team, and I think it's far too early for that.
3. Risk v. Reward
There's little doubt that Rice will command serious money in free agency, but he's also coming off a season ending hip injury. There are certain injuries at different positions that are particularly bad, for a WR a hip injury is one of them. It's a kind of injury that can keep rearing it's ugly head and for a player with only one season of good data as a starter it's a hard sell to give him top money. In a lot of ways it's the same argument against Charles Johnson, except Johnson wasn't on IR.
4. The Panthers don't sign big name WRs
The counterpoint to this is simple: "Before this year Hurney didn't take a 1st round QB either"
The Panthers are operating differently than they have in the past, however, it seems highly doubtful this would extend to throwing large amounts of money at Sidney Rice. Under Marty Hurney there have only been two WR signings to true note, bringing in Keyshawn Johnson and bringing back Muhsin Muhammad. In both of these cases the Panthers did not have to spend top dollar to get these veterans.
5. New coaches don't make moves like this
In the 1st year of a new coach's tenure they typically don't tell their GM they need a top name FA immediately, especially with as much young talent as a Panthers have at the position. New coaches normally do one of two things:
1) Stay pat and use their first season to evaluate the team's players
2) Bring in a player who is known to the coaching staff from a past team
We have a lot of young players as mentioned in point two, so this condition is satisfied. As for the second, both Malcolm Floyd and Braylon Edwards are set to hit FA and have a history with Rob Chudzinski.
In the end it would be really nice to have Sidney Rice on the Panthers, but spending big on a WR seems to be a luxury more than a need. I expect the Panthers will spend their open money to address their needs like DT and CB before they throw money at a luxury.