Free-agent defensive end Simeon Rice, one of the few potential impact players remaining in free agency and a guy who enters 2007 as the second-leading active sacker in the league, signed with the Denver Broncos on Monday evening.
Rice, 33, arrived in Denver on Sunday, dined that evening with team officials, and then chose the Broncos' contract offer over the proposal the St. Louis Rams submitted.
According to ESPN.com's John Clayton, Rice's deal with the Broncos is for one year and $3 million. He accepted the terms once the Broncos decided to guarantee the contract. Along with the $3 million, the Broncos gave him the chance to make another $1 million through performance-based incentives.
The addition of Rice, who was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the outset of training camp in July, continues the near-wholesale overhaul of the Denver defensive line. Even before adding Rice, the Broncos were projected to have four new defensive line starters. Only two of the defensive linemen who dressed for Denver in the 2006 season opener remain on the active roster.
"He's a big-time pass rusher, he's been in the league for a
while, he's got a lot of talent," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said, according to The Associated Press.
It is not yet known if Rice will play in Denver's season opener at Buffalo on Sunday, but he left little doubt that he wants to suit up.
"I'm anxious to play," Rice said. "It's what I do. I'm not [accustomed] to sitting around."
An 11-year veteran, Rice should provide the Broncos with the upfield pass-rush threat the team has lacked for the last several seasons. Denver had 35 sacks in 2006, slightly below the NFL average of 36.3, and its top sacker was then-rookie Elvis Dumervil, with 8½. The Broncos haven't had a player with double-digit sacks since end Reggie Hayward recorded 10½ in 2004.
Rice has posted eight seasons with 10 or more sacks and only four players in league history have more double-digit sack years than him. He had a string of five straight double-digit sack seasons snapped last year, when a shoulder injury limited him to eight appearances and two sacks, both career lows. Rice is 13th on the all-time sack list and needs eight to move into the top 10 in NFL history.
"He's a teammate who I loved playing with and one of the great
pass rushers of all-time. So, we'd be -- anyone would be -- fortunate
to get him,'' Broncos defensive back John Lynch said, according to AP.
There have been questions since Rice's release about the status of his left shoulder, which required surgery in the offseason, and most teams with whom he visited administered a physical examination. The Rams even put Rice through a short workout of sorts, which included a weightlifting session.
Lynch said Rice told him he was fine: "He told me his
shoulder's feeling good and he feels like he's ready to play."
Before the shoulder injury, Rice never missed a game because of injury in his first 10 NFL seasons. The former University of Illinois star has played in 166 games, 160 as a starter, and has 460 tackles, 35 forced fumbles, eight recoveries, five interceptions and 51 pass deflections.
He was a first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 1996, then signed with the Bucs as an unrestricted free agent in 2001.
Rice's departure from Tampa Bay was a controversial one. Team officials allowed him to report to camp, then announced he had failed his physical exam. Rice insisted the divorce from the Bucs, where he was scheduled to have a base salary of $7.25 million in 2007 and a salary cap charge of more than $10 million, was financially motivated.
The release came, Rice said, after he rejected a proposed salary reduction of $2.5 million.
"Everybody knows it was a money thing," Rice said.
Len Pasquarelli and John Clayton are senior NFL writers for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.