Report: Seahawks to release WR Rice

The Seattle Seahawks’ first salary-cap casualty of the offseason will be wide receiver Sidney Rice. In a move that was expected, the Seahawks will release Rice according to multiple reports, a move that frees up $7.3 million in cap space.

While the move is not yet official, Rice said his goodbyes to Seahawks fans on Twitter Friday, writing, “The number #12 will remain on the left side of my chest no matter what! Grateful for the opportunity to share so many special moments w yall.”

The move was not on the NFL’s list of transactions Friday, but was reported by multiple outlets, including ESPN and the NFL Network.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll held a press conference at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis Friday morning before the report on Rice came out. Carroll was asked if his team would be able to keep Rice and tight end Zach Miller, another high-priced veteran, and told reporters, “We hope to,” while also conceding, “there are very difficult decisions every year you face in the league with contracts and money and cap and all of that.”

Given that Rice was scheduled to make $8.5 million this year, and that he has dealt with numerous injuries, missing 15 regular-season games in three seasons, his release seemed inevitable. The Seahawks have big money tied up in another receiver, Percy Harvin, and need to free up cap space if they are going to re-sign free agents Golden Tate and Michael Bennett, as well as extend the contracts of young core players such as Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman.

Rice was the first big free-agent signing of the Carroll era, agreeing to a five-year, $41-million deal in July of 2011. He caught 32 passes for 484 yards and two touchdowns in nine games that year before landing on injured reserve following multiple concussions. Rice underwent surgery on both shoulders that offseason, then enjoyed his most productive season in Seattle in 2012, catching 50 passes for a team-high 748 yards and seven touchdowns while playing in all 16 games for just the second time in his career. Rice went to Switzerland during training camp in 2013 to have a platelet-rich plasma injection in his knee, then lasted just eight games before tearing his ACL.

Carroll praised Rice’s rehab in his year-end press conference, noting that the receiver was recovering very well from knee surgery, so Rice, 27, likely will be ready for the start of the 2014 season, if not training camp. Even so, it remains to be seen how big of a market there will be for Rice given his lengthy injury history, though when healthy he has shown the ability to be a playmaker, most notably when he had 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009 with the Minnesota Vikings.

One possibility, though seemingly a less likely one, is that Rice could end up back in Seattle at a lower cost if there isn’t a lot of interest, particularly if the Seahawks are unable to re-sign Tate, who is an unrestricted free agent.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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