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RFA market should be active this year, in theory

victor-cruz Getty Images

Not long ago, NFL owners were squabbling with each other about the disparity in revenue among the high-earning and low-earning franchises.  (Coincidentally or otherwise, those gripes disappeared once the most recent CBA was completed.)

Now, teams have a different topic on which they differ:  Cap space.

Some teams have plenty.  Others don’t have very much.  Others are in the red, and they’re currently scrambling to jettison the excess.

In theory, it should make for an interesting restricted free agency period, when cap-rich teams can rob from the cap-poor by frontloading offer sheets that as a practical matter can’t be matched.

The most intriguing name in the restricted free agency market this year will be receiver Victor Cruz.  The Giants are expected to tender him at the first-round level.  (And if Alex Smith is worth up to two twos, Cruz is worth at least a low-to-mid one.)  While the Giants aren’t among the worst of the cap situations, if a team is willing to offer something close to first-day-of-free-agency market value, the Giants likely will pass on matching.

In practice, however, restricted free agency has become a useless exercise in recent years.  Some (like Ross Tucker — I mention him in part because I know how much he likes to see his name in print) believe that teams don’t pursue restricted free agents because the right to match means that the prospective team will have simply negotiated the player’s new contract with his current team, for free.  But if teams with cap space target RFAs from teams without it, that won’t happen in 2013.

If, given the current cap disparities, there continues to be little interest in restricted free agents this year, the NFLPA may want to explore the question of whether the NFL has adopted an unwritten agreement to not pursue each other’s restricted free agents.

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12 Responses to “RFA market should be active this year, in theory”
  1. pleasantsurpriselefty says: Feb 28, 2013 9:55 AM

    Love the guys that won’t take a pay cut! The real world is about to deliver a harsh lesson for a lot of them.

  2. randolph32 says: Feb 28, 2013 10:18 AM

    The next Owners meeting should be interesting….not to speak of the GM’s getting pi**ed off.

  3. justintuckrule says: Feb 28, 2013 11:03 AM

    As a Giants’ fan, this is exactly what scares me. With Brady restructuring and opening up a ton of space for NE, I can see them replacing Welker with an offer to Cruz that the Giants can’t match. Welker’s getting up there and Brady will need another slot beast for the next 5 years. Plus, BB is still butthurt over losing 2 SBs to NYG, he’d like to stick it to them just to do so (i.e. signing an injured Ballard off waivers).

    Mara….quit being cheap for once. The guy played 2 years for slave wages. PAY THE MAN.

  4. patfanken says: Feb 28, 2013 11:14 AM

    So I guess any criticism of Florio’s myopic view of RFA is against this site’s policy. How cowardly and short sighted.

    It is NOT collusion when teams refuse to give up encomical and valuable first rouund picks AND pay 8 figure annual salaries, it’s just good management. Don’t blame the owner, blame the rookie salary cap.

  5. cliffordc05 says: Feb 28, 2013 11:24 AM

    Restricted Free Agents do not attract much attention because they are expensive not because of any sort of collusion. Why would any team chase a Pittsburgh wide receiver one year when they know that he will be available in 12 months without the cost of any draft picks? Particularly when the player has previously indicated that he is looking for Fitzgerald money.

    The Cruz situation is different because Cruz has not made any outrageous demands (at least not publicly). I am not familiar with the Giants’ cap space next year but it would be interesting to look at this year’s Restriced Free Agents and the cap space their current teams will potentially have in 2014.

    Overpaying a player in the form of salary and draft picks is not a smart way to build a team. Draft picks are particularly important under the new player agreement because of the rookie wage scale.

  6. mattyk72 says: Feb 28, 2013 11:34 AM

    Feels like the RFA market is supposed to be active nearly every year, and every year nothing happens.

  7. j98me2 says: Feb 28, 2013 12:44 PM

    The rookie salary cap has killed the RFA market. While the RFA player is a known commodity there is still no guarantee he will work out or not get hurt. You can use that 1st round pick, take the best guy at that position and pay under the rookie wage scale.

    The rookie wage scale skews the risk/reward profile to the rookies. Before the wage scale there would be a small enough difference in salary to make the RFA worth it.

  8. jolink653 says: Feb 28, 2013 12:50 PM

    @ justintuckrule

    I was thinking the same thing, only from a Patriots fan’s point of view. Cruz has a different type of skill set in the slot in that he can take the top off the defense, but also run the kind of drag and underneath routes that Welker runs so well. I just don’t think Belichick will go for it knowing he’ll have to forfeit his first round pick in a draft that looks to be pretty stocked with good players all over the board. But the Giants would be smart to lock this guy up, even if it comes at the expense of Nicks

  9. Giantspunk213 says: Feb 28, 2013 12:59 PM

    I know this sounds a little crazy because i’m a giants fan but if someone wants to give up a 1st rd pick for Cruz then let em. Everyone was shocked when the giants let Steve Smith walk but he was replaced, no reason Cruz can’t be replaced either. He’s a slot guy and as good as he is he’s not worth a monster contract. Let someone give up a 1st and give reese 3 picks in the top 64 to make the giants younger and healthier.

  10. justintuckrule says: Feb 28, 2013 3:04 PM

    @Giantspunk – If its SF or NE that bid for Cruz, the Giants are only getting the last pick or so of Rd. 1. Plus, Steve Smith is a totally different situation. He tore his knee and that was AFTER he had rejected a $30M in-season extension.

    @jolink – I wouldn’t be concerned about BB losing a pick. He’d trade down a bunch of times like usual and recoup it right back. Put Cruz on NE and I see 20TDs and a 1500yd season easy. That’s worth a 1st Rder to me.

    Mike – some posters keenly note that the rookie salary cap has a huge effect on RFA. You should discuss this. For instance, if 60M guaranteed for top picks was the norm, I could see KC signing Cruz and sticking the Giants with a top pick they couldn’t afford (and in this draft, one not worthy of huge guaranteed $$). Interesting.

  11. justintuckrule says: Feb 28, 2013 3:29 PM

    @giantspunk – as a fellow Giants’ fan, I also think its incumbent on myself to advise that you should seriously consider revising your screen name. I get it that you are Giants punk. However, there are Eagles’ fans on here that could easily call you Giant spunk and that just wouldn’t be cool.

  12. ss376 says: Feb 28, 2013 6:16 PM

    A first rounder would be an interesting proposition but as good as Cruz is, I don’t see anyone offering that. But if I was St. Louis, Carolina or the Jets, I’d be thinking about it, at least.

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