NFL restricted free agency: Will Victor Cruz, Sam Shields appeal to desperate teams?


A move in restricted free agency is rare, but players like Victor Cruz and Sam Shields could warrant last-minute moves.

With just two days remaining for teams to sign restricted free agents to offer sheets before Friday's deadline, it would be surprising if any moves happened. However, it's the NFL, and surprising things happen on a daily basis.

While unlikely to happen, it's always possible that a team could make a late move for a restricted free agent even if that means dishing out a pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. So which players could be the targets of such an aggressive move?

Victor Cruz, wide receiver, New York Giants

An undrafted free agent in 2010, Cruz burst on to the scene in 2011 with 1,536 yards receiving. While that dropped to 1,092 yards in 2012, he caught 10 touchdowns and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Cruz, 26, received a first-round tender from the Giants, meaning that a team would have to give away a top pick to acquire his services, but in a draft class that doesn't have a bona fide A.J. Green or Julio Jones-type prospect at the top of the rankings, that may be an acceptable trade-off for a Pro Bowl-quality receiver.

A playoff-level team like the Houston Texans, New England Patriots or Baltimore Ravens could give away one of the last picks of the first round to acquire a top-notch receiver that may not be available to them otherwise.

Sam Shields, cornerback, Green Bay Packers

Another undrafted player from the 2010 class, Shields played in a nickel cornerback role for the Packers behind Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams before eventually earning a spot in the starting lineup.

At only 25 years old, Shields is still a young, ascending cornerback who looks to have potential as a solid starter with many years left to play. With a second-round tender, the price to acquire Shields isn't much considering the value he's shown in the Green Bay secondary.

Several teams are needy in the secondary including the New England Patriots, who have already been aggressive in restricted free agency, as well as the Miami Dolphins, owners of two second-round and two-third round picks.

Arthur Jones, defensive end, Baltimore Ravens

Finding a 3-4 defensive end that can both stop the run and occasionally collapse the pocket and help get to the passer is not an easy task. While Jones hasn't been an elite lineman for the Ravens, he's progressed in each season and played the best football of his career in the latter half of the Ravens' Super Bowl-winning run.

Jones, 26, would cost a team a second-round pick and could be a good fit for a team looking for a space-eater up front, who recorded 4.5 sacks, as well, and helped players like Paul Kruger get to the passer.

The Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers are two teams with late second-round picks that could benefit greatly from Jones' services.

Brian de la Puente, center, New Orleans Saints

De la Puente, 27, isn't a household name, but centers rarely are. An undrafted player in 2008, De la Puente bounced from practice squad to practice squad throughout the league before settling in New Orleans and earning a starting role in 2011.

In 2012, De la Puente started all 16 games for the Saints and was good, earning the second-highest center grade in the league from Pro Football Focus and allowing just two sacks all season.

Issued a second-round tender, De la Puente could be a fit for teams with a sub-par interior offensive line like the Chicago Bears or Baltimore Ravens, each of whom have picks in the latter half of the second round.

Stevie Brown, safety, New York Giants

A seventh-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, Brown bounced to two other teams before joining the Giants in early 2012. He was a surprising player who earned a spot in the starting lineup and provided solid play for the Giants in the secondary.

Brown, 25, is still young with room to improve and could be worth the second-round pick to a team that needs an upgrade at free safety with a young, ascending player.

The San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins are two especially needy teams at free safety that have picks outside the top 50 and could upgrade instantly with Brown, although the Redskins are without a first-round pick and may be hesitant to sit out the second-round, as well.

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