How to pay a slot receiver --
You look around the league at the premier receivers who make a living picking apart zone coverage across the middle of the field, and most of them are either stuck in developing a new contract for their services, or are most likely going to be on a new team next year. Our very own Victor Cruz and former Steve Smith both come to mind, but also Wes Welker in New England, and Danny Amendola in St Louis.
I know that the concept of a slot receiver isn't new to the league and an offenses game plan, but it certainly has exploded over recent years (whether it be the traditional slot receiver, or the tight end and running back match ups we see in certain offenses in the league). This leads me to believe that the reason so many of these guys are currently in contract limbo is because there is no definitive idea as to how to pay them for their services.
Because the role is so new to the NFL's pass-happy tendencies, I think it is tough for teams to determine exactly how possible it is to replace such a player in the offense. Yes, Cruz, Welker, Amendola, etc. are all great at what they do. But a huge part to contract negotiations is the question of how difficult would it be to replace their production, and how much cheaper could management do it for?
I love Victor Cruz, and I do believe that he brings more to the offense than Welker and other slot-esque guys do to their teams. But I also believe that the influx of spread offenses in college, along with the growth of 7 on 7 middle school and high school leagues across the country, have helped taught and placed more emphasis on the importance of strong route running skills for wide receivers. If the rules of the NFL keep evolving like what we currently see, more and more of these slot guys will have success in the NFL, begging the question of whether these sort of players are a commodity to a team, or if they are a dime-a-dozen, and can be found annually at any round of the draft, similar to how the running back position has become. As Giants fans, we have seen first hand the awesome production of a slot receiver just be handed over to a new guy seamlessly (Smith to Cruz). Is this going to develop into a common occurrence in the league? Or is Victor Cruz really as important to his role and beneficial to the team as his stats have suggested the last two years? How do you put such an evolving role, the huge stats it produces, and the perceived importance of the player onto paper and quantise it into contractual numbers?