NFL free agency 2014: Three receivers who make more sense than Sidney Rice

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Bringing Sidney Rice home has been discussed by Panthers fans, but there might be some better options.

There are a lot of reasons why Sidney Rice would make sense in Carolina. He's the kind of reclamation project Dave Gettleman has shown to have an affinity for, Rice is a South Carolina native and still young enough to make an impact. On the surface it looks like a trifecta, but there are three players who make more sense and are still available.

At this point it's hard to see what Rice brings to the table other than potential. Jaxon wrote about the possibility earlier today, but it's seen as a long shot. He's a tall and talented receiver when healthy, but his potential role was diminished in Carolina when Jerricho Cotchery was signed. No, they're not equivalent players but fill many of the same needs.

Instead of stocking the shelves with lots of guys it's now important to see how the puzzle fits together. To this end there are three options who are immediately better for Carolina than Sidney Rice.

1. Miles Austin

It's easy to look at the 29-year old's season in 2013 and assume he's done. A third of his yearly production, no touchdowns -- what's compelling about that?

Austin played through a year-long hamstring injury which limited his speed and explosiveness. At this point he's not a long-term option, but on a one year deal he's perfect to plug into the second or third receiver spot and succeed. If that hamstring has healed, which it seems to, then he's absolutely worth kicking the tires on.

2. Danario Alexander

This is a situation where he's essentially a younger version of Rice with a higher ceiling -- if healthy, and that's a huge caveat. Alexander came out of nowhere in 2012 to become one of the biggest surprises of the season. He may not have eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards, but he was reliable.

At 25 years-old there's plenty of room to bounce back from his season-ending injury a year ago, but complications have left him out of free agency equations this year. Some reports say his ability to play is in jeopardy, others have him closer to playing. It's a situation of the Panthers needing to sit back and wait this one out, potentially making an acquisition during training camp.

3. Santonio Holmes

This last pick is the least likely, purely because the Panthers don't want headaches. That said, he's a very interesting option to fill an ancillary role.

Holmes was never able to be the No.1 receiver the Jets hopes for when they signed him to a big deal, but he's still a solid receiver who can offer 600-800 yards without too much risk. He would be vetted heavily to ensure his head is in the right place, so that doesn't really worry me -- plus there aren't the injury concerns the other players have.

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