The New York Giants were wise to part ways with veteran wide receiver Victor Cruz, but the possibility exists that the club could bring him back on a discount.
The New York Giants parting ways with veteran wide receiver Victor Cruz this past February made all kinds of sense for multiple reasons. Cruz valiantly returned from the devastating knee injury he suffered in October 2014, one that kept him sidelined for that rest of that season and for the entire 2015 campaign. But it was clear this past fall he was no longer the player of old. Add in that the Giants needed to free up some money, and Cruz becoming a salary cap casualty quickly became an inevitability.
The thought only one month ago was that Cruz would land what may be the final significant contract of his professional career at some point in March. Granted, nobody expected Cruz to be the highest-paid receiver of this free agency class, but the 30-year-old who has a Super Bowl title on his resume receiving several million dollars from a franchise with money to burn and a need at the position was hardly a crazy notion.
A funny thing then happened once free agency began. It turns out all involved, from players to agents to fans to even teams, misjudged the market for wide receivers. The Cleveland Browns elected to not use the franchise tag to keep former quarterback-turned-receiver Terrelle Pryor, and Pryor ultimately signed a deal with the Washington Redskins that carries a $6 million cap hit and may be worth a total of $8 million according to Spotrac. That’s quite a bargain considering Pyror’s potential.
The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t have to break the bank to acquire Alshon Jeffery. Cleveland may save money down the road replacing the previously mentioned Pryor with Kenny Britt depending on how well or how poorly Britt performs in his debut season with the Browns. The Giants, meanwhile, only had to guarantee $5 million this year to bring former New York Jet Brandon Marshall over to the Big Blue portion of MetLife Stadium.
Cruz, meanwhile, has been left out in the wilderness. As Newsday’s Tom Rock wrote, Cruz met with the Carolina Panthers weeks ago, but it doesn’t appear those two sides will be coming to terms on any sort of deal anytime soon unless something changes. The Jets and Browns are two teams that seemingly could use a player of Cruz’s services and history, and yet neither team has offered him a contract as far as we know.
Considering all that has occurred, the question needs to be asked: Should the Giants offer to bring Cruz back? Cruz failed to impress throughout the 2016 season, as he caught 39 of 72 targets and found the end zone only once. Per SportingCharts.com, Cruz dropped three passes during the final campaign of his first stint with the Giants, a number that wouldn’t be concerning if not for the fact he didn’t secure nearly half the throws tossed his way.
Odds are we won’t see Cruz performing a half-dozen salsa dances in end zones if he signs for any team before the start of the 2017 season. He may no longer be the home run threat he was during his physical prime, but all should remember the Giants wouldn’t need him to play such a role later this year. In fact, Cruz would merely be a body on the sideline and, in certain occasions, on the field.
New York’s receiving corps is already stacked. On paper, the trio of Marshall, Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard playing alongside two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning makes for a high-powered offense that may feature the top passing attack in the NFC East. For the right price, Cruz could be a complementary player and somebody who could fill in if Shepard, who finished his rookie season with eight touchdowns, misses playing time for any reason.
The combination of Cruz and Marshall could also benefit the Giants off the field. One wouldn’t have to search long to find hot takes about how Beckham, who is already one of the top receivers in the NFL, needs to mature as a player and a person if he is to reach his high ceiling. Both Cruz and Marshall have been through a plethora of ups and downs during their careers, and the two could prove to be invaluable in guiding Beckham, Shepard and other younger players in the locker room.
For what it’s worth, ESPN’s Dan Graziano took to Twitter earlier this week to report Cruz returning to the Giants “doesn’t seem likely.” Even if that is the case, the Giants may feel there is a fit as workouts and training camp sessions approach. If nothing else, signing Cruz to an inexpensive contract that carries no cap hit beyond 2017 would allow the club to concentrate elsewhere in the upcoming draft.