While the draft tends to bring more glitz and glamour to team quests to land players they want, NFL free agency is perhaps more popular since it involves players who already have proven history on the big stage. So while mock drafts are already coming out for next May, experts quietly ponder which big names with expiring contracts have a chance to hit the open market and where they might land.
Cruz still at odds with New York Giants despite Eli Manning pleas
Among those names included is Pro Bowl wide receiver Victor Cruz. The 26-year old was a restricted free agent this year and despite interest from a number of teams, none were willing to pay the price of a big contract and a first round draft pick which the New York Giants had tendered him for. Since then Cruz has made no move to sign the tender contract and join the team. While nobody is ready to admit he is staging a holdout, his willingness to miss Organized Team Activities (OTAs) shows that things may be headed in that direction. Not even subtle appeals from quarterback and teammate Eli Manning have swayed Cruz thus far in the process.
This is not old news to the Giants organization. They’ve made a habit for years of underpaying certain players in order to save money. A popular example was defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Despite two Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl titles he never got the big pay day he felt he deserved. That is why he staged not one but several major and minor contract holdouts. After a rough 2012 he felt it was time to move on and signed a two-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons. Is the same fate in store for Cruz if the two sides can’t work things outs?
Raiders need targets for Matt Flynn or Tyler Wilson
One thing Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie couldn’t afford to worry about during the off-season was luxuries. Wide receivers are the offensive equivalent of luxuries. He saw the team could not function well enough until he rebuilt its core from the ground up. So that is where he focused. Most of free agency was spent adding players to the defense including Tracy Porter, Nick Roach, Mike Jenkins, Pat Sims, and Usama Young. His biggest move was trading for quarterback Matt Flynn from the Seattle Seahawks. From there Oakland entered the draft to continue adding depth. They took corner D.J. Hayden early, added Menelik Watson on the offensive line and then gave Flynn some competition by landing Tyler Wilson out of Arkansas in the fourth round. The one area the Raiders refused to touch, at least not until the seventh round was wide receiver.
Their reasoning drew mixed reactions. Previous quarterback Carson Palmer did manage to throw for over 4,000 yards last season. McKenzie clearly felt the group of Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, and Rod Streater is enough to get by with. The problem is Ford didn’t register a catch last year due to injury and number two receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was cut back in March. That could mean, depending on what happens this season, that they will be in the market for receivers early next off-season. They should have the money to find one too.
Of all the teams next year, Oakland is projected to have the most salary cap space in 2014. As things stand the current cap sits at $122 million. If it stays that way next year, the Raiders will only have just over $45 million in salaries on the payroll, meaning they could potentially have over $76 million in cap space to spend. That is more than enough to sign some big name free agents. It is for that reason they make the most sense for Victor Cruz. His holdout with the Giants is about money. He wants more than he is getting and New York isn’t giving it to him. Whether he plays or not this season, there is a good chance he won’t see the big contract he feels he deserves. That means if he wants it, he’ll have to go somewhere else.
Oakland should be waiting.