More than just a Mentor: Veteran Sack Artist feeling a “Mile High”


All-Pro defensive end Simeon Rice signed a deal with the Denver Broncos today, the team and Rice confirmed. The St. Louis Rams were the other team “reported” to being interested, close in agreeing to terms with this Fighting Illini alum. At the end of the day, the Denver Broncos were winners, picking up instant help, for a defensive line that is not all that potent. Rice will bring much-needed intensity and spark to a pass rush that is usually non-existent.

Look for him to reach double-digits this year and have a chip on his shoulder, helping Denver become a Top 5 Defense and a Super Bowl Contender. He still can make a difference and will have an impact on a young defensive line, while also being able to make big plays at critical junctures of any game, at any time. Rice’s explosion off the line of scrimmage may be questioned, as he has diminished somewhat, due to age, but his heart and ability to be a game-breaker will not be doubted by the offensive tackles that will have to face him (tall task at hand) each Sunday.

According to the NFL source, Rice will be making to $3 million deal this season with the Broncos, with $1 million of that money tied to incentives.

Rice dined with Broncos coach Mike Shanahan on Saturday night, and then began serious contract talks with the team today.

With 121 career sacks while playing with Arizona and Tampa Bay in his 11-year career, Rice is 13th on the NFL all-time sacks list. He needs eight more sacks to move into the top 10, and another 17 would put Rice into the NFL’s top five all-time.

“I think I can change a defense,” Rice said Saturday night. “Another thing I like about Denver is that it’s a historical franchise.”

After never missing a game because of injury through his first 10 seasons, Rice was hampered in 2006 by a season-long shoulder that eventually required surgery. When Rice didn’t pass the team physical prior to training camp, Tampa Bay wanted him back only at a pay cut from the $7.25 million he was scheduled to make this season. Rice refused and was released to free agency.

John Lynch had this to say, “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,” Lynch said Monday while the sides were signing the one-year deal at Broncos headquarters.

Lynch also said Rice told him he was fine: “He told me his shoulder’s feeling good and he feels like he’s ready to play.”

Coach Mike Shanahan approached Rice, who ranks 13th all-time in sacks, to bring experience and pressure to a young defensive line.

“He’s a big-time pass rusher, he’s been in the league for a while, he’s got a lot of talent,” Shanahan said. And he’ll be expected to lead by example when it comes to showing the Broncos’ rookie class of Jarvis Moss (Florida), Tim Crowder (Texas) and Marcus Thomas (Florida) the NFL ropes.

Strahan, among others, has been critical of Rice in recent years, claiming that he gets sacks but doesn’t play the run well, something Lynch said was an overstated observation.

“He’s a terrific football player all-around. A lot of people like to give him a hard time about his run defense. It doesn’t always look pretty, but he gets the job done,” Lynch said. “He and Strahan are right there in terms of sacks.

“And the thing I always loved about Simeon is his sacks came in big times. Fourth-quarter, third downs, fourth downs. He’s just got a flair for the dramatic. When your team needs a play, he makes it,” Lynch said. “He’s one of the great ones ever at stripping the ball. He doesn’t just sack the quarterback.”

The Broncos are loaded with youth along the defensive line, where they are led by veteran John Engelberger and two free agents; the three rookies; two players with just a year’s experience; one with two years in the league; and one who’s been suspended for the first month of the season.

They lost Ebenezer Ekuban for the season to an Achilles’ tendon injury and dropped starters Gerard Warren and Kenard Lang like bad habits last month.

While the contract was being completed, Moss said he would welcome the addition of Rice even though it would undoubtedly cut into his playing time as a rookie. “There would be no envy or jealousy,” said Moss, the Broncos’ first-round draft pick. “I think it would be a great situation for him and a great opportunity for me to get the chance to learn from a Hall of Fame-caliber defensive end. I can’t think of one negative.”

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