A relatively mellow offseason picked up a little steam this week, as teams gear up for organized team activities and continue to sort themselves out. A few lingering issues were solved, while the business side of football reared its ugly head. Want to take a spin through the week that was? Here are five things that stood out, starting with a very interesting situation in New York:
1) Victor Cruz's talks with the Giants are fascinating
Things in New York always seem to get ramped up, regardless of the subject matter. Would a second-round pick firing his agent -- as New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith did -- have made national news if it had happened in Kansas City? Nope. The same is true of the negotiations between receiver Victor Cruz and the New York Giants.
The Giants remain confident they can sign Cruz to long-term deal, while Cruz is undecided about whether or not to show up for OTAs -- it all depends on where the two sides are in the negotiations by next week. As for the coverage this story has received, one can understand why the hysteria has left the Giants a little miffed (since they think something will get done). Their thought seems to be that, after playing for the minimum for three years, the undrafted Cruz would be happy to be paid more than 15 times what he had been making. But it's not that simple.
Speaking for myself, I'm interested in Cruz's talks because they are so complex. He's a slot receiver who doesn't always play the slot. He has thrived in the Giants' system, making himself indispensable ... yet, we all thought the same thing about Steve Smith before he took off his Big Blue jersey in 2011, and he went on to catch just 25 passes for 255 yards and one touchdown in two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams.
I'm told the Giants view Cruz as more than a slot receiver, which helps his value. Makes me think he'll earn more than $7 million or $8 million. Cruz's argument that he should be paid elite receiver money, meanwhile, makes sense. Compare his first two seasons on the field (2011 and 2012) with the production of highly paidArizona Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald (who we all can agree is elite) in that same time span: Cruz had 168 catches for 2,628 yards while Fitzgerald had 151 catches for 2,209 yards. Why shouldn't Cruz demand equal compensation? Because opposing defenses often paid more attention to Hakeem Nicks than they did to Cruz? Well, yes, maybe -- that happened sometimes, and it doesn't help his value.
There is hope this can get wrapped up. But how the two sides make peace is what will be fascinating.
2) Is there room in this world for Charles Woodson?
Charles Woodson spent time in Denver recently, receiving a contract offer from the Broncos. He's set to visit the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday, according to his agent, Carl Poston, and there is interest from a few other teams. The veteran defensive back does want to keep playing, even at age 36, and he has no plans to retire. As it was told to me, Woodson doesn't want to merely sign for the minimum (which he could have done by now) and serve as a de facto assistant coach, helping rookies learn to be professionals.
And yet, that might be the reality awaiting Woodson and others in his place. According to Poston, Woodson received a $2.2 million bonus for going to the Pro Bowl each year in his rookie contract -- and his salary in 2013 will likely be lower than that, thanks in part to the collective bargaining agreement.
Think about that. The Pro Bowl bonus he earned more than a decade ago will top the salary he gets this year. No wonder Woodson is frustrated. Like many veterans in his position, he's looking around and wondering how this new CBA really helped him. The safe bet is that Richard Seymour is doing the same. Some players can benefit from waiting around; it appears that this will be the case for Dwight Freeney, as an injury can create a hole that a team must fill. But as Woodson's role would be more of an intangible one, even that factor doesn't necessarily help.
Woodson clearly wants to play. But will he find an offer that is respectable enough to let him do it?
3) A new day in Buffalo
I assume Bills fans will dwell on that for about two seconds before moving on to the guts of this move: It's great for their team.
It seems to be nearly impossible to pry an executive away from the Pittsburgh Steelers, but that's what the Bills did in 2010 with Whaley. A bright young star in this business, he's impressed everyone who has come across him with his smarts, and with something that's fairly essential for someone in his job: He knows what a good football player looks like. That, above all, is the feedback I heard from his peers. It's one reason that at least two prospective coaching candidates cited Whaley as a factor in their desire to land the Bills job. Bills CEO Russ Brandon made it clear that Whaley will shape the team's scouting philosophy, just as outgoing GM Buddy Nix did. "He will manage that process and have final say on the 53," Brandon said. "When it comes to the draft, as I like to use the term 'pull the tag,' Doug will pull the tag when it comes to the draft."
Whaley said all the right things on Thursday, with the Bills completing a total -- and stunningly under-the-radar -- organizational makeover in just a year. When asked about his time with the Steelers, Whaley said, "They don't accept losing." True. What he could have said is, "They know what a good football player is." Really, that's what the Steelers do: They find guys who can play this game, regardless of what they look like or how they work out in shorts. This, above all, will be Whaley's contribution. The Bills have inspired bouts of optimism during their long playoff-less stretch. Considering who is now running the organization, they look primed to create a little more.
4) The business side of football can be harsh
The New England Patriots released defensive tackle Kyle Love on Wednesday. Why? In short, the former undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State -- and all-around good guy -- was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes after losing 20 pounds ... and the Patriots cut him. They didn't hide their reason for doing so, officially putting him on the "non-football injury" list. Love, who gained most of his weight back, was claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he plans to be ready for training camp.
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The Patriots liked Love as a player. Plucking him from the ranks of the unknown, they eventually slotted him into the starting lineup next to Vince Wilfork in Super Bowl XLVI. A $500,000 signing bonus was included in a new contract inked by Love last year, of which he recently received the final $250,000. Still, the Pats weren't sure when he'd be back, and they decided not to keep the roster spot open for him. Cold, right? He got sick, and they cut him.
I felt bad for Love when it happened, even though he tweeted that none of us should. And yet, around the league, there was only mild shock. I had to step back and think about the human side to really give the situation its due. This is what the Patriots do. They make football decisions for football reasons, feelings aside. They obviously believed the uncertainty brought on by Love's illness couldn't be weathered on their roster. Now someone else will take his reps and build his résumé.
These are the same Patriots who drafted lineman Marcus Cannon after he was diagnosed with cancer -- because, with his draft stock falling, he presented a good value, and because they felt he would help them (and he will this season). These same Patriots also welcomed Tedy Bruschi back after he suffered a stroke -- because it helped their football team, not because it was a feel-good story.
I didn't love this most recent move, and I smiled a bit when Love landed on his feet. But the business of football can turn you to ice. At some point, that should stop surprising us.
5) The changing role of third-string QBs
It's not just that it's May and there's nothing to talk about besides backup quarterbacks. Well, it is May, but still: I can't help noticing that the role of backup quarterbacks is changing before our eyes.
Specifically, it's the third-stringer whose credentials are being altered. Remember when teams would draft third- and fourth-stringers with the intention that they would learn for years while riding the bench? That still happens, sometimes. But more and more often, teams are filling their roster with understudies who can help in practice, not in games. Spread quarterbacks. Read-option quarterbacks. Guys who can mimic starters who can run, those with experience being mobile. Like Matt Scott with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tyrod Taylor with the Baltimore Ravens or Tarvaris Jackson with the Buffalo Bills.
Teams want solid quarterbacks for games, but having guys who can run and spread it out helps a defense prepare for unconventional offenses during practice. It's like the third quarterback has morphed from a clipboard-holding learner to a practice linchpin. This is another reason -- since we're discussing backup quarterbacks -- that Tim Tebow hasn't found a job. How much can he help a team during practice in terms of mimicking an opponent's offense? The answer: Not much. His style is too unusual. He's the quarterback version of a reserve linebacker who can't help on special teams.