The Blues considered a move for Rice during the summer transfer window but were put off by West Ham’s £75m valuation.
Rice, 21, has developed into one of West Ham’s most important players, making 115 appearances since joining as a teenager from Chelsea in 2014.
‘Kante has been a superb footballer, and still is a great footballer, he won the Premier League with Leicester, went to Chelsea and won the Premier League again and then won the World Cup in 2018,’ Bent told talkSPORT.
‘But for nearly two seasons now he’s not played in that role that we know he’s so good at. Maybe Sarri was onto something.
‘He said he was not quick enough in possession, so he didn’t play him there, he played Jorginho instead, and Sarri got absolutely killed for not playing him there.
‘But then Frank has come in and done the same thing, and nobody has said anything! For me, I think Declan Rice would be an upgrade.’
Former England striker Bent added: ‘Not only because he can play that role really, really well, he can get up the pitch, he’s got good energy, good pace, reads the game really well.
‘Kante has been superb and for years he was the best holding midfield player in world football.
‘But we haven’t seen him play that role for a few years now, so how much has he got left in him playing in that role now? He hasn’t played it consistently for so long!
‘So if you’re going to sell N’golo Kante and bring in Declan Rice, I’m all for that.’