Broncos coach Mike Shanahan had a conversation with Rice last week, a conversation Rice's agent Jim Steiner said went "very well." Shanahan said he told Rice he wouldn't make him any promises on playing time or where he fit into the receiving corps, and Rice was agreeable to that. Rice and Denver would be a fit because Shanahan was San Francisco's offensive coordinator from 1992-94, when Rice was playing for the 49ers.
Denver would also be a fit for Rice because the Broncos are thin past top two receivers Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie. Second-year player Darius Watts is the favorite to be the No. 3 receiver but he faded late last season as a rookie. There is very little experience after Watts.
Rice has slowed in the past couple years. Last season between Oakland and Seattle he had 30 catches, 429 yards and three touchdowns. Rice's experience might be the best asset he would bring to the Broncos. If he could help Denver's young receivers mature, it might be worth the investment to sign him for a season.
After Smith, Lelie is Denver's most experienced receiver. He has played three seasons in the NFL. Rice, whose work ethic is well noted, could set a good example for the other receivers.
"He's definitely on the down side of his career, there's no question about that," linebacker Al Wilson said. "But just the intangibles that he brings to the game, the little ins and outs, that the younger guys may not know about the NFL, he can teach them."
On the field, Rice could bring something to the Broncos. He had one throwback game last season for Seattle, catching eight passes for 145 yards against Dallas. As recently as 2002 he had 92 catches for 1,211 yards for Oakland. Denver's players know what his credentials are and figure he could still be a contributor.
"This guy has done it all," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "He's won Super Bowls, been to Pro Bowls, put up 20,000-plus yards. I want him on my team."
-- The NFL upheld John Lynch's $75,000 fine for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Indianapolis tight end Dallas Clark last season. Lynch said he didn't question the NFL's motives for handing out fines, but thought safeties like himself were frequent targets.
"It's a certain position, my position, the safety position, that's getting 90 percent of these fines," Lynch said. "I think there's a different way of looking at it and there are certain things that are impossible to do as a player and I think that's what they're asking us."
-- Denver started a quarterback camp last week. Defensive linemen Courtney Brown (foot) and Ebenezer Ekuban (knee, shoulder) did not participate. Running back Quentin Griffin (knee) was a limited participant.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Griffin should be full speed by the team's next camp in June. Griffin is coming off surgery for a torn ACL he suffered last season. He had arthroscopic surgery in May to clean out some cartilage.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--RB Garrison Hearst didn't play poorly when he was called upon last year, but the Broncos don't have much use for him with their crowded backfield.
--DT Ellis Johnson is a productive pass-rushing interior lineman and the Broncos would love to get him back for another season.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--S Sam Brandon: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--T/G Cooper Carlisle: UFA; $2M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB.
--DE Marco Coleman: UFA; terms unknown.
--DT Dorsett Davis: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--DT Luther Elliss: UFA; terms unknown.
--OG Ben Hamilton: UFA; $16.25M/5 yrs, $5.5M guaranteed.
--TE Patrick Hape: UFA; terms unknown.
--TE/LS Mike Leach: UFA; terms unknown.
--DE Anton Palepoi: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--DT Monsanto Pope: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--TE Jeb Putzier: RFA/matched Jets offer; $12.5M/5 yrs, $2.5M SB.
--CB Lenny Walls: RFA; $1.43M/1 yr.
--S Chris Young: ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--TE Stephen Alexander: UFA Lions; $4.2M/3 yrs, $1M bonuses.
--DE Courtney Brown: FA Browns; terms unknown.
--LB Keith Burns: UFA Buccaneers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--OT Anthony Clement: FA Cardinals; terms unknown.
--RB Ron Dayne: UFA Giants; terms unknown.
--DE Ebenezer Ekuban (trade Browns).
--LB Ian Gold: FA Buccaneers; $25M/6 yrs, $5.75M SB/$2.5M RB '06.
--DT Michael Myers (trade Browns).
--P Todd Sauerbrun (trade Panthers).
--DT Gerard Warren (trade Browns).
--G Cameron Spikes: FA Cardinals; terms unknown.
--P Jason Baker (trade Panthers).
--RB Reuben Droughns (traded Browns).
--DE Reggie Hayward: UFA Jaguars; $25M/5 yrs, SB unknown.
--CB Kelly Herndon: RFA Seahawks; $15M/5 yrs, $3.6M SB.
--S Kenoy Kennedy: UFA Lions; $14M/5 yrs, $4M SB.
--OG Dan Neil (released).
--LB Donnie Spragan: UFA Dolphins; $1.9M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB.