We've been over the possible salary cap restrictions that could keep the Red Bulls for going out and finding reinforcements ahead of the 2014 season, and Empire of Soccer's Dave Martinez adds some detail here.
A remedy to that situation could come in the Re-Entry Draft, the first of which takes place Thursday via conference call. There, you're likely getting an MLS-proven player at an MLS-approved salary.
The bad news is that there aren't too many players on the list of 68 that would be of interest to the Red Bulls, and the ones that are, aren't great options, especially in the Re-Entry Draft's first stage.
Giving the players a run down, there isn't really anyone who would be a legitimate upgrade at fullback, currently the Red Bulls' biggest need.
There do happen to be a few players who might pique the Red Bulls' interest, who would also satisfy items on their wish list, -- an attacking midfielder and wing help -- but no one that doesn't come with some baggage.
For an attacking midfielder, Mauro Rosales is available from the Seattle Sounders. Rosales, an important cog in the Sounders' machine upon their entry into MLS, scored four goals and notched eight assists in 33 games last season, but with the Sounders needing to figure out how to squeeze a whole lot of offensive firepower into their starting XI, he's out. The downsides likely outweigh the upsides, though. Rosales is 32 years old, so he's no long term solution. Worse still is his salary: $200,000 base, which the Red Bulls would have to pick up, if they take him in the first stage, not give him a raise.
In a similar role as Rosales, former MLS MVP and FC Dallas playmaker David Ferreira is also available, but his downsides are even steeper than Rosales'. He's two years older than Rosales -- 34 -- and he's on a designated player contract, making the chances of a Red Bulls' selection precisely zero.
A better fit might be one of Rosales' Sounders teammates Steve Zakuani. He hasn't been the same player since Brian Mullan broke his leg in 2011, but he did make eight appearances last year, including six starts. Maybe a change of scenery gets his career back on track. With the Red Bulls, it's likely there's less expected of him, especially since he was getting paid $135,000 with the Sounders.
Another winger the Red Bulls might consider? Bobby Convey. Convey's pinballed around the league since coming back from England's Reading. He was sort-of effective for Sporting Kansas City before they flipped him to Toronto FC, where he made 21 appearances, scored a goal and set up four others. Convey's downside is, again, salary. He was paid $200,000 base last year and the Red Bulls would have to pick that up. Making things worse for the 30-year-old Convey? He's reportedly had attitude problems in some of his other stops. But, hey, maybe he can be another one of Mike Petke's famed reclamation projects.
Then, of course, there are the sentimental picks. Kenny Cooper is on the list, and with Fabian Espindola and Andre Akpan gone, the Red Bulls are only carrying four strikers, with one a teenager and the other deployed as a midfielder. But, again, salary: the $325,000 he was paid was the reason the Red Bulls dropped him in the first place. Fan favorite Joel Lindpere, who was traded to the Chicago Fire last winter, is available, too. He could satisfy the Red Bulls' attacking midfielder option, and he'd finally get the chance to play centrally, which he's wanted for some time now. But again, there's his salary ($180,000 base), his age (32) and the fact he seems destined for Europe.
So, yeah, there's not a lot. The only player I'd really take a serious look at is Zakuani (and maybe Cooper and Lindpere, but I can't tell if that's my heart or my head), but only if it comes in the second stage, where Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh can renegotiate player contracts.
That said, unless the Red Bulls braintrust sees someone I missed -- and judges them as valuable as their current contract -- don't expect them to be active Thursday. Next Wednesday, when the league holds the second stage, could be another story.