There weren't many remaining free agents with Rice's resume. Rice had double digits in sacks in five of his six seasons in Tampa Bay, and the Broncos are hoping he can still rush the quarterback.
"This was a big signing for us this late in the process," Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist said.
Rice's lone Buccaneers season without at least 10 sacks was last year, when a shoulder problem affected him and he had two sacks in eight games. The Buccaneers released him before training camp, citing the shoulder as a reason.
Even Rice admitted he didn't know how the shoulder would react once he starts hitting.
"We'll soon find out," Rice said. "Walking around on the street, I feel fantastic."
If Rice is healthy, he should eventually take a spot in the starting lineup. The Broncos lost starting end Ebenezer Ekuban during the preseason to a torn Achilles' tendon. Previous to Rice's signing, the Broncos' main candidates to replace Ekuban were all young: second-year end Elvis Dumervil and rookies Tim Crowder and Jarvis Moss.
Rice can add a veteran presence if he's healthy. Also, he fits Denver's scheme well. Assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates lines up the ends wide so they can use their speed to get after the quarterback.
"I think our scheme will open things up on the edge for him and allow him to use his physical tools to rush the passer," Sundquist said. "He can be at times flat dominant and give opposing offensive tackles fits with his length and speed."
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan speculated that Rice may play 15-20 snaps in the regular-season opener at Buffalo. Rice said he stayed in shape, but he was cautious about predictions.
"I'm just here trying to get my legs back," Rice said. "Taking it slow. Taking it real slow. This is my first time I'm putting my helmet on, so everything is new for me since my injuries."
--The Broncos surprised some people when they moved tailbacks Cecil Sapp and Mike Bell to fullback before the final preseason game of the year. That move allowed the team to release former starter Kyle Johnson.
Bell had never played fullback. He was a surprise at tailback as an undrafted rookie last year, but moved down the depth chart in the offseason.
"I don't think anybody's really excited when they find out they're a fullback when they used to be a tailback," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "But then they like to be employed, and they start to be more enthused about the job."
--Selvin Young emerged as the surprise of the Broncos' final roster. Young was an undrafted tailback out of Texas, but he led the Broncos in rushing yards this preseason. The coaches were impressed enough that they moved Sapp and Bell to fullback, leaving Young as Travis Henry's backup.
"I feel like I've given everything I've got from the moment I walked in the door," Young said.
--The Broncos went with youth at receiver when they decided to release veteran Quincy Morgan. Morgan was Denver's primary kickoff returner to start the preseason. Domenik Hixon or Brian Clark, the team's fourth and fifth receivers, are the top candidates to return kicks.
"I felt like I earned a spot," Morgan said. "They said that too, but it's the nature of the business."
--The Broncos were relieved when cornerback Karl Paymah had only a concussion after being carted off the field during Denver's last preseason game. Paymah was trying to tackle Cardinals running back Steve Baylark, and Baylark's knee hit Paymah on the crown of the helmet. Paymah was down for five minutes before he was strapped to a backboard and carted off.
"I completely forgot about football for five minutes," Broncos safety Hamza Abdullah said. "It's painful to watch. Very painful."
--Denver released defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, a former first-round pick of the Rams. The Broncos have confidence in many unknown or inexperienced tackles, including starter Amon Gordon and rookie backup Marcus Thomas.
BY THE NUMBERS: 121 -- Career sacks for new Broncos defensive end Simeon Rice, which is 13th on the NFL's all-time list.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Obviously he's a big-time pass rusher. I think everybody knows that. He's been in the league for a while. He's got a lot of talent." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, on defensive end Simeon Rice.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos have a backload at tailback. All five tailbacks who started training camp made the opening-day roster. However, Mike Bell and Cecil Sapp were moved to fullback, and former starting fullback Kyle Johnson was cut. Selvin Young and Andre Hall are the backups to Travis Henry. The Broncos like all their tailbacks, which is one reason Hall was kept on when the team signed defensive end Simeon Rice. Linebacker Wesly Mallard, who would have contributed on special teams, was released.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--G Chris Myers will start Denver's first few games at left guard. Ben Hamilton is still suffering from the effects of a concussion. Myers hasn't started a game, but this is his third year with the Broncos and he should know the scheme well.
--TE Nate Jackson's impressive training camp could lead to playing time the first few weeks of the regular season. Tony Scheffler missed a lot of practice time this offseason and at the start of training camp with a broken foot.
--QB Patrick Ramsey was held out of Denver's last preseason game, along with all of the Broncos' starters and many other key backups. That shows how much confidence the coaches have in Ramsey's knowledge of the offense, even though it's only his first year in Denver.
--DE Elvis Dumervil appears in line to start the regular-season opener. The Broncos will likely turn the job over to Simeon Rice once he is ready, but Rice missed all of training camp after being released by Tampa Bay.
--LB Nate Webster will be Denver's strongside linebacker to start the season. Webster outplayed the competition in the preseason to win the job. If D.J. Williams struggles at middle linebacker early in the season, Webster could move over to the middle.
INJURY IMPACT: G Ben Hamilton won't do any cardiovascular workouts for two weeks, based on the advice of a concussion specialist. Hamilton suffered a concussion early in training camp and is still feeling effects.
--CB Karl Paymah suffered a concussion in Denver's last preseason game. He said he feels good, even though he was carted off the field, and could return to practice soon. The Broncos won't rush Paymah back.
--TE Stephen Alexander was kicked in the calf in Denver's last preseason game, and he is still healing.
--OT Ryan Harris is still recovering from minor back surgery and
should be ready in a few weeks.
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