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In this week’s Bucs Shots, Pewter Report editor-in-chief Jim Flynn sounds off on message board BucsPirate’s take on Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Simeon Rice’s future with the team beyond the 2007 season.
 
Simeon Rice Will Be A Buc In 2008 – Posted On May 30, 2007 by BucsPirate
I don't understand why everyone has drawn the assumption that there is no way Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice will be back after this year. Yes, Sim had a down year last year, but we don't know how much is due to the injury. Sure, Sim talks a lot and doesn't necessarily dominate every game, but what defensive lineman does? Carolina’s Julius Peppers has probably been the most consistent over the last few years, and I bet if you go game by game his numbers are sub-par 20-25 percent of the time.

Prior to last year, in his previous five years with the Bucs, Rice averaged 13.5 sacks, 45 tackles,  six passes defensed and one interception per season.

Those are franchise defensive end numbers, and if he can come close to those averages again in 2007 I don't know how you can justify not at least using the franchise tag on Rice, especially when you'll have upwards of $30 million in cap room again.

Plus, as the guys on these message boards have been quick to point out, Rice is a great teammate and mentor for his fellow defensive lineman, and whatever you want to say about him you can't deny the fact that he has an amazing work ethic and drive. Personally I think this guy has at least two or three good years left and will finish his career with numbers that will warrant strong Hall of Fame consideration. Letting him go after this year would be a mistake.

Jim Flynn’s response to BucsPirate’s post
You make a strong argument in terms of how valuable Simeon Rice has been to Tampa Bay’s defense, BucsPirate, but I just don’t see how Rice will be back with the Buccaneers in 2008.

Rice, who ranks 13th all-time in NFL history with 121 career sacks and has notched a whopping 37 forced fumbles, is coming off of serious shoulder surgery and still isn’t 100 percent healthy.

Although he is expected to make a full recovery by the time training camp rolls around in July, Rice is no longer in his prime. Sure, he keeps himself in incredible shape with a training regimen that is practically unmatched and unheard of, but Rice is 33 and will turn 34 next February.

Even if Rice produces another double-digit sack season in 2007, the Bucs made their future plans at defensive end clear in April when they used the fourth overall pick in the draft to select Gaines Adams, a premier, pass-rushing defensive end that is working almost exclusively at right end, which is the same position Rice has occupied since joining the Bucs in 2001.

It is unlikely that the Bucs would use the franchise tag on Rice after the 2007 season. Rice, who is the highest-paid player on Tampa Bay’s roster, currently has a base salary of $7.250 million and a salary cap value of $10.450 million.

If the Bucs were to slap the franchise tag on Rice in 2008, league rules would require the team to pay Rice 120 percent of his base salary from the previous season or the average salary of the top 5-paid players in the NFL, whichever is greater.

While Tampa Bay, which is scheduled to be approximately $30 million under the salary cap in 2008, might be able to afford to franchise Rice, it might not be able to justify such a move since Rice would basically account for a third of that available cap room in ’08.

The Bucs might consider placing the franchise tag on Rice with the sole goal of trading him, but they might be hard pressed to find a team that would be interested in acquiring Rice and his high salary, and there probably won't be too many teams lining up to sign the 34-year old Rice to a new, long-term, lucrative contract. 

Even if the Bucs wanted to re-sign Rice, there’s no guarantee he’d want to continue playing for the Bucs or in the NFL. Remember – he went on record with ESPN last year stating that he contemplated retiring after the 2005 season ended.

Rice has his sights set on the record books this season. He needs just nine sacks to surpass Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon as Tampa Bay’s all-time sack leader, and he might be comfortable walking away from football if he accomplishes that feat.

If Rice doesn’t break Selmon’s sack record this season, odds are that sack record will stay intact as Rice is unlikely to return to the Buccaneers in 2008.

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