Restricted free agents rarely change teams these days. But it could happen -- an opposing team could value one of these players more than his current club. This list is a ranking of restricted free agents' worth. Do teams agree? We'll soon to find out.
Each team has to decide what tender to put on its restricted free agents, which in turn determines what a team gets in compensation if the player signs elsewhere. Tendering one of their own too high should ensure that a team keeps the player, but also takes a bigger cut of the salary cap pie. It's a balancing act.
Here is my list of the NFL's top 20 restricted free agents for 2013:
Can the Giants afford to let Victor Cruz get away?
1. WR Victor Cruz, New York Giants: Cruz is a fantastic story and an even better football player. WhenHakeem Nicks was slowed by an injury in 2012, Cruz showed that 2011 was not a fluke. He is by far the best restricted free agent in this year's class. How will the Giants tender their star receiver? They can't afford him to leave the Big Apple.
2. C Brian De La Puente, New Orleans Saints: The Saints' starting center is very underrated. He moves well getting to the second level in the run game, and while protecting Drew Brees. De La Puente has quietly become part of the foundation of New Orleans' offense. Don't expect him to leave NOLA anytime soon.
3. TE Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens: Pitta has quickly become one of Joe Flacco's favorite targets. Although he isn't flashy, it's easy to see why Flacco trusts him so much. Pitta runs well and has a very good feel for beating man coverage or finding the soft spot in zones. He also has very reliable hands. His blocking is a work in progress, but there is a lot to like here.
4. CB Sam Shields, Green Bay Packers: The Packers now feature an excellent group of young defensive backs, and Shields certainly qualifies as one of them. Whether Shields or rookie Casey Hayward starts opposite Tramon Williams, the Packers don't have a second corner who opposing quarterbacks can consistently target. A team can never have enough solid corners. Opposing teams might just agree and try to make a play for Shields.
5. WR Danario Alexander, San Diego Chargers: Alexander was a pleasant surprise for San Diego last year. He's a very tall wide receiver with deep ball skills and is a perfect fit for the Chargers, a team that loves throwing deep. Over a five-game stretch in November and December, Alexander averaged nearly 100 receiving yards per game. He is for real, but his history of knee issues is extremely concerning.
6. RB Chris Ivory, New Orleans Saints: Ivory runs as hard as any back in the league, and his physical style is perfect for putting teams away late in games. But the Saints have wealth at this position, and getting Ivory touches has proved difficult. Pierre Thomas could be a cap casualty though, which could open up opportunity for Ivory. Plenty of teams would love to add this guy to their backfield.
7. DE Junior Galette, New Orleans Saints: Although he didn't log a ton of snaps in 2012, it could be argued that Galette was the Saints' best pass-rusher. He had quite a few impressive outings last year and really deserved more playing time than he received, especially on such a poor overall defense. But New Orleans probably is switching to a 3-4 next season, which would force Galette into an outside linebacker role.
8. DE Arthur Jones, Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens have a deep and versatile defensive front, and Jones' versatility fits that mold. He plays the run well but also offers some interior pass rush. Jones can line up as a strong side defensive end in the 4-3, or as a 3 Technique in that scheme, and he can play end in the 3-4. Such a skill set should make him appealing around the league. He made a few big plays in the Super Bowl, which always helps.
9. OT Austin Howard, New York Jets: Howard is not a world-beater, but right tackle was an area of weakness for the Jets before Howard took over the starting spot. Pass protection remains a problem, but he is a masher in the run game. New York has a lot of other areas of need, so Howard has a good chance of entering training camp as the starting right tackle.
10. WR Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Wallace is unlikely to return to Pittsburgh, and that could open the door for Sanders. He has some big-play ability and is very good after the catch, but Sanders has some durability and consistency issues. Is he ready to be a starter?
11. DT Steve McLendon, Pittsburgh Steelers: McClendon didn't see a lot of snaps behindCasey Hampton, but deserves more action. He's more of a nose tackle than an end in Pittsburgh's scheme, although he can play both. He has a great shot to be the Steelers' starter because Hampton is likely to move on.
Ed Dickson has great potential, despite his liabilities as a blocking tight end.
12. TE Ed Dickson, Baltimore Ravens:Dickson is the third member of the Super Bowl champion Ravens on this list, and the second tight end. He's not the two-way tight end that Pitta is -- he is very much a liability as a blocker. Many thought Dickson was the more dangerous receiver of the two coming out of college, and although Dickson shows very good straight-line speed, Pitta is the more reliable pass-catcher. After a change at offensive coordinator, the Ravens played fewer double tight end sets because Dickson wasn't carrying his weight. He has a lot of potential, though.
13. DE Willie Young, Detroit Lions:Young played very well in 2011 but was underused. In 2012, Young -- like much of Detroit's defensive line and defense overall -- was disappointing. He is still young and could rebound from a tough campaign.
14. RB LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Blount is a one-dimensional guy who offers very little in the passing game. His limited skill set isn't a great fit in today's NFL. But he has had some success in this league and can be a punishing player with the ball in his hands.
15. RBs Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers: We can lump Redman and Dwyer together. Both had their moments throughout the season, and both are big backs who run with great conviction. Neither excels as a receiver, but neither is a liability, either. Neither brings a big-play element. Still, Rashard Mendenhall is unlikely to be with Pittsburgh next season, which could give this pair ample opportunity in 2013.
16. S Stevie Brown, New York Giants: Because of injuries at safety, Brown saw more playing time than New York probably anticipated, but he made a ton of big plays and held up quite well. The Giants have a history of playing Big Nickel with three safeties, which could work out well for Brown.
17. C Phil Costa, Dallas Cowboys: Costa missed time with injuries, but he's had his good moments in this league, too. The starting center job should be his unless the Cowboys upgrade this offseason -- Dallas' interior offensive line was terrible in 2012. Offensive line upgrades should be viewed as a necessity in Big D.
18. TE Michael Hoomanawanui, New England Patriots: The Patriots have quite the collection of tight ends. Hoomanawanui filled in as the "Gronk" in New England's double tight end sets while Rob Gronkowski was sidelined. No one will ever confuse the two; Hoomanawanui is a massive inline blocker who can offer a little in the short zones and near the goal line.
19. RB Andre Brown, New York Giants: Brown exploded on the scene in the Giants' Week 3 game at Carolina, rushing for 113 yards. In fact, he averaged 5.5 yards per carry the week before, when he took over for Ahmad Bradshaw, who was injured. Now Bradshaw's been released, and David Wilson raises some pass protection and ball security questions. It is conceivable that Brown is New York's lead back, especially to begin the season. His issue will be staying healthy.
20. TE Logan Paulsen, Washington Redskins: Paulsen surprisingly became a valuable contributor for the Redskins at about the midway point of the season after Fred Davis was lost for the season. Paulsen doesn't have special traits, but he showed he can catch the ball against mediocre coverage players and open holes for Washington's great run game.
Honorable Mention: CB E.J. Biggers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; P Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City Chiefs; TE Tom Crabtree, Green Bay Packers; TE Jeff Cumberland, New York Jets; C Evan Dietrich-Smith, Green Bay Packers; LB Rob Jackson, Washington Redskins; WR Donald Jones,Buffalo Bills; OT Jeffrey Linkenbach, Indianapolis Colts; WR David Nelson, Buffalo Bills; S Darian Stewart, St. Louis Rams; LB Frank Zombo, Green Bay Packers.