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Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Sidney Rice seems a long shot for Carolina

By David Newton

Many of you have asked if the Carolina Panthers have interest in free agent wide receiver Sidney Rice now that he's been medically cleared to begin football drills.

One of you emailed to say Rice, cut by the Seattle Seahawks in February to save $7.3 million under the salary cap, was at an expensive Charlotte hotel on Saturday night.

Rice
Here is what I know. According to a source, Rice was not in town for an official visit with the Panthers. As of Tuesday morning, no official visit was scheduled.

That doesn't mean it couldn't happen at some point, although I would consider him signing here a long shot.

On Monday, Rice announced on Twitter that he had been cleared medically five months and one week after having surgery to repair a torn ACL.

According to reports, the Panthers, New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and Seahawks are interested.

Carolina is a natural landing place because Rice grew up an hour from Charlotte in Gaffney, S.C., and played at the University of South Carolina, 90 minutes from Carolina's Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers also are rebuilding their receiving corps.

But financially, Carolina has the least money to spend among the four teams interested. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Panthers have $2,747,629 left under the salary cap. Seattle has the most room at $15,816,262, followed by the Giants ($4,079,849) and Saints ($3,732,116).

The Panthers already have signed three free agent receivers in Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood who account for $3,675,000 in cap space. They also added tight end Ed Dickson, who will count $635,000 under the 2014 cap.

Rice, despite the injuries, still likely would demand more than any of those, with Cotchery ($1.7 million) counting the most against the cap.

Rice was a Pro Bowl receiver at Minnesota in 2009 when he had a career-best 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns. Since then he's been plagued by injuries that have limited him to 32 or fewer receptions in three of the past four seasons.

He has played only one full season since '09, catching 50 passes for 748 yards and seven touchdowns for Seattle in 2012.

But when healthy, he can be a weapon.

The Seahawks still seem the most likely landing spot for the seven-year veteran, because they have a need at receiver after free-agent losses and the most money to spend.

Carolina still seems like a long shot.