In a move that helped the Bucs free up millions under the NFL-mandated $75-million salary cap, Rice, who had two years remaining on his original deal, cashed in by signing a new five-year, $41-million contract, which includes $20 million in bonuses, according to ESPN.
The Bucs and Tom Condon, who served as Rice's agent, were believed to be in negotiations for a few weeks. Before Rice's deal was finalized, the Bucs were only about $550,000 under the salary cap, which wasn't enough to sign players. But the Bucs were able to use some of the money freed up by the deal to re-sign middle linebacker Shelton Quarles. It also allowed the team to finalize a five-year deal with right guard Jason Whittle.
Rice's deal makes him the first $8-million-a-year defender and the $20 million in bonuses tops the record $19-million bonus that Baltimore Ravens MLB Ray Lewis received last year.
Rice, 29, was scheduled to have a $7.1-million cap value in 2003, but his contract extension saved the Bucs about $3 million this season and nearly $5 million in 2004.
In his second season as a Buc, Rice was voted to the Pro Bowl after he recorded 15.5 sacks, 75 tackles and forced six fumbles last season. Rice's sack total ranked first in the NFC and second in the NFL behind Miami DE Jason Taylor.