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Victor Cruz Must Accept Playing Second Fiddle to Hakeem Nicks for New York Giants

February 4th, 2013 at 11:05 AM
By Simon Garron-Caine

'Victor Cruz' photo (c) 2011, scott mecum - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ As we all know, Victor Cruz is after a big, fat new contract…but unfortunately for Vic, fellow New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is also headed for a new deal. And the sooner Cruz realizes that Nicks is the one about to get the big boy money, the sooner he can hopefully come to a long-term agreement of his own with the team.

Cruz is merely a "restricted" free agent, and despite key players like Will Beatty and Kenny Phillips facing unrestricted free agency, it's Cruz whose contract talks dominate the news. By the time Cruz is really a free agent, after this upcoming season, Nicks will have just completed his rookie deal and also be gearing for the payday that is NFL free agency.

At one point, Cruz said deal was inevitable. Then, he promised no holdout. Well, maybe just a little holdout. The problem? Sounds like Cruz is asking for top dog money. And that money belongs to #88.

A recent ESPN report makes it pretty clear that the Giants are prioritizing getting a deal done with Nicks, who the team "views as a legitimate no. 1 receiver," over Cruz.

Giants owner John Mara said last week that he wants Cruz to remain a Giant, but at a reasonable price. "We certainly want him back, but like with any player, there's a limit to where we're going to go," the Giants' co-owner told reporters Friday. "He's been a terrific player for us, he's a fan favorite, he does a lot for our franchise, but there is a limit."

The Giants do a pretty good job of both valuing players and taking care of their own, so the fact that Hakeem Nicks is on the verge of getting huge money doesn't necessarily mean the Giants are going to lowball Cruz. There's still, we can only hope, a solid contract for Cruz somewhere coming down the pipeline. He's a phenomenal player and the Giants (and Eli Manning, for sure) certainly recognize his value.

But he's going to have to settle for the good contract…after the great contract goes to Nicks.

Calvin Johnson recently got $132 million for seven years from the Detroit Lions and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers set last year's wide receiver free agent market by signing Vincent Jackson to a five-year, $55 million deal. Nicks' deal probably lands somewhere roughly in the middle of those.

Cruz's future with the team probably hinges on whether he really shoots for the stars or not. If he does, he's good enough that he'll quite possibly find a taker.

But here's to hoping he decides to settle in with Big Blue if they can come up with a good, albeit not eye-popping, offer.

The Giants can offer him a lot: he'll play across from a legitimate number one threat; he'll catch passes from a two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback; perhaps most importantly, he'll be in the biggest sports media market in the country.

They should be able to find common ground. But we'll see how that turns out once Cruz is forced to watch the kind of contract he was after go to Nicks.

Also…

Tags: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, Eli Manning, ESPN, Football, Hakeem Nicks, John Mara, Kenny Phillips, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Victor Cruz, Vincent Jackson, Will Beatty

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40 Responses to “Victor Cruz Must Accept Playing Second Fiddle to Hakeem Nicks for New York Giants”

  1. Before we even start with the “Cruz is better” or “Cruz is more valuable” thing. Just read these numbers that Dan looked up, that pretty much show that Cruz NEEDS Nicks to be the player he is.

    “In games Nicks did not play or was merely a decoy (6 total games): Cruz had 30 receptions for 289 yards. 109 of those yards game against Philly in week 4. That’s an average of 5 receptions for 48.2 yards per game.

    In games Nicks did play and was even slightly effective (10 games): Cruz has 56 receptions for 803 yards. That’s an average of 5.6 receptions for 80.3 yards per game.”

  2.  kinsho says:

    It’s hard paying a wideout top dollar when he finds himself prone to injury.

    I say Cruz is the best receiver on the team, solely by the merits of his health history. In terms of talent, Hakeem Nicks is the better option, but that talent goes to waste when his name inevitably lands on the injury list or he plays as a shell of himself.

    So I’m in support of giving Cruz big money, or at least give both him and Nicks roughly equal contract.

    •  kinsho says:

      On second thought, now I’m not so sure about my argument.

      Hakeem Nicks is a fighter that tries to play through injuries, and I truly respect that. But at the same time, if his refusal to rest delays his recovery, he’s only going to end up hurting the team down the line.

      It’s a real shame that such a great talent is so injury prone.

      •  nick86 says:

        In the end the medical staff has the final call… so in reality Hakeem can refuse to rest all he wants but the doctors/coaches make the decisions

        •  kinsho says:

          I thought that last season, he was told to rest his knee for 6-8 weeks after the Tampa Bay game. Instead, he was back in action within a few weeks.

  3.  Krow says:

    Contract negotiations always make me feel like a child in a divorce proceeding. Everyone is spinning their version of the truth. And you don’t have nearly all the facts.

  4.  TonyMW says:

    Haha, posted in the wrong thread.

    REPOST:

    TonyMW says:
    February 4, 2013 at 11:54 AM
    I also echo the belief that Nicks is a superior player to Cruz, but lets not pretend that Cruz would be easy to replace. He wouldn’t be. It’s easy to say that “it would take a top 10 pick to find another Nicks”, but if the draft were redone with hindsight in mind, Cruz would undoubtedly be right up there with him.

    Sure, he doesn’t have the physicality, hands, or catching radius that Nicks does, but his route running, and ability after the catch are not easily matched in the current NFL. Plus, the dude stays healthy. That tends to be an underrated trait in some lines of thinking.

    It makes sense though. If Nicks comes back healthy, and lights it up next season, they will probably have a very tough time retaining him. His value is currently at its lowest, now is the time to get it done. I have a strong feeling that Cruz gets tendered, but I hope it doesn’t get to that point.

    •  jfunk says:

      It wouldn’t just be difficult, it would be impossible to “replace” Cruz. He’s a unique talent. The argument is simply that his loss can be better mitigated (not completely) through a combination of other players & scheme than can Nicks’.

      Nicks, Randle, Jernigan > Cruz, Randle, Jernigan. At least that’s the basic theory.

  5.  jfunk says:

    From a purely financial angle, the only incentive for Cruz to settle for “good” money from the Giants is that it eliminates the injury risk of playing next year on his tender offer.

    If he’s willing to take that risk, he WILL get more money than the Giants are going to offer him. He can refuse to sign his tender until the last possible week, limiting his injury risk as much as possible while retaining his accrued year and getting to UFA next season.

    It all depends on how much he values his situation here (home town, marketing opportunity) and the security of getting paid now before further risking his health. But make no mistake, if Cruz signs a long term deal with the Giants, it will be because he decides that those factors are worth a financial hit.

    I’m a pretty conservative person in the risk department myself, so I’d take a reasonable offer in a heartbeat. Most of these kids didn’t get where they are by being conservative though, so it’s not surprising at all when many of them throw caution to the wind and play on short term deals while angling for the bigger future contract.

    Didn’t some offensive tackle play like three consecutive seasons under the franchise tag sometime relatively recently (like within the past 10 years) before finally signing a long term deal? Made a boat load of cash, but boy was that living on the edge.

    •  jfunk says:

      It was Walter Jones….played 2002, 2003, and 2004 under the franchise tag with Seattle before finally agreeing to a long term deal in 2005.

      • I think the Giants thought they were going to save themselves some money by getting that contract offer to Cruz well before he was even smelling free agency.

        But he demanded the kind of money that was still almost a year-and-a-half away (or that he presumes will be there in a year-and-a-half when he gets to FA).

        And at that point, if he’s demanding fair-market value, it pays for the Giants to just let him finish out another cheap year-and-a-half before paying him that much.

        To me, I agree it’s such a big risk. Look at studs like Terrell Thomas who are never going to see that payday.

        If it were you, would you take a 5-year $40 million dollar deal from the Giants now…instead of playing another year for pennies for a shot at a 6-year $60 million deal from, say, the Raiders or something?

        The marketing money in NY, the stability of the team and the quarterback position in NY…you’re much more likely to hit incentives and fulfill the length of the contract and make up any difference along the way doing Reebok commercials.

        Cruz seems to have a pretty good head on his shoulders. But it’s not easy for some guys to take that #2 contract…even if it is (hopefully) a damn good contract for a #2.

        •  jfunk says:

          Agreed, the Giants were definitely trying to lock him up on the cheap by approaching him early, which they rarely do.

          The last two times they did that (Osi & Tuck) it worked out beautifully for them and is a big reason why they’ve been able to stockpile talent at the DE position for years without breaking the bank in the process.

          I’d be shocked if those two didn’t whisper any words of warning in Cruz’s ear when the Giants first came a knocking. Tuck hasn’t said anything publicly, but don’t think he’s not just as disappointed as Osi about playing through the prime of his career at below market value because he jumped at the Giants’ seemingly generous offer to give him “big” money before they had to.

          •  GOAT56 says:

            +1

            I think those two contracts are going to hurt us with our young players. We are not going to get those type of deals going forward so we will lose some players.

  6.  CT GIANT says:

    FACTS: #1 Nicks is the #1 outside/inside WR on this team since 09. Last year was his 1st time, he did not put up 1k & 7td’s, {see his stats giants.com} moreover, Eli’s “go to guy” will never be anyone else then Nicks.
    Cruz is good, BUT plays the slot, ala Welker, is a RFA, and the giants “got him”, just by hitting him with a #1 tender, should he keep asking for the Calvin Johnson money.
    Giants & Reese have BIG issues this year, and Mara speaking up, makes be read between the lines here, and say Victor, your good, your in the media capitol of the world, we want you to stay, but we have a “team to keep together” and your just one of 53 be reasonable.
    Look what Reese did with Smith, and where is he? If I were Cruz, I would tread slowly, and listen carefully, he stays if he’s got some brains?
    CT GIANT

  7.  GOAT56 says:

    There’s a different facet of the Cruz discussion that I talked in length about several months ago and Jfunk mentioned last thread. I don’t think paying 2 WRs probably 15 mil plus a year combined is the right way to build a team. It’s too much invested in the wrong position. I feel this is an area that Indy made a mistake with Peyton. Indy invested so much in the salaries of their skill position (mainly WRs & TEs) players that their roster wasn’t as balanced as it should be. I think that’s a major reason they didn’t win more SBs. I understand when looking at Cruz vs a Canty or Webster or another overpriced vet many think what’s the decision just re-sign Cruz and let those guys go. But when you invest heavily in one position it hurts the quality you can amass at other positions. JR has to view this long term and not just what works best for a year or two. I have long thought (I was criticized heavily here) that the best way to move forward is to just keep either Nicks or Cruz. I always favored Nicks but at mid-season I thought it was a fair debate and I had some conflict. To me the last half or final 6 games as Dan detailed showed that Cruz isn’t a true #1 WR. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a very good or even great WR but that definitely hurts what he’s worth. The reason you would pay 2 WRs so much money is that they are each dynamic and could still be great if something happened the other WR. I don’t think that’s the case with Cruz though even if it was I think you would have to choose to keep just one WR.

    The negative aspect of drafting well in today’s NFL is you can’t afford to keep everyone if they are good. So you have to not only make an assessment on the player but the position. That’s why re-signing Beatty is important. I think Eli has proven over his career that he can adjust to losing his so called “security blanket.” With both Plax to Steve Smith many argued that these players were need for Eli to be successful. But that’s not the case, Eli will function fine without any single WR as long as another talented option is added. I think choosing to keep just Nicks is much more about Eli than it’s about Cruz. Having great WR who take up significant salary is just not the way to build a roster that gives us the best chance to win SBs.

    •  sonnymooks says:

      I just want to start off by saying, that I am NOT a conspiracy theorist or a gossip monger, and don’t generally believe in rumors, but this one rumor I remember hearing aligns a little bit with what you are saying, to a small extent, and it has/had to do with the steelers.

      The story was that Coach Tomlin wanted Bruce Arians back, and had already informed him (this part isn’t rumor, thats confirmed), then rumor is that Rooney stepped in, and wanted Arians out (hence the mismanaged story of retirement), not because Arians was a bad coordinator, but because the teams more pass oriented offense was to difficult financially to maintain.

      The story/rumor was that Rooney believed that in passing systems, everyone gets paid more. WRs put up better numbers, so they become worth more, and when it comes to FA time, they leave, and new ones have to be drafted, then developed (WRs take longer to develop then say, RBs). Also, OL that can pass block are more expensive then OL that are better run blockers, simply by supply and demand, there are more good run blocking OL then there are pass blocking OL, and running a passing attack, puts a preimum on a smaller supply of OL guys, who then have to be replaced when they hit the market via the draft. Going with a run heavy attack, does allow the RBs to put up the number, but its easier to find good RBs then it is to find good WRs, and easier to develop RBs then WRs, and its also easier to find and develop good run blocking OL guys then good pass blocking OL guys. Thus, a run oriented offense is cheaper and less expensive and easier to maintain then a passing heavy attack, and that frees up money that can be spent on the defense.

      Its always been a rumor, and I have no idea if its actually true or just an attempt to rationalize the sloppy departure/ouster of Arians when he was the Pitt O.C. but the logic is very sound, and makes sense.

      That said, losing Cruz hurts Nicks, losing Nicks hurts cruz, you get maximum production out of both by having both, one without the other, diminishes the one you keep. Add to that the Giants run a very complex and complicated passing system, and it further retards development unless the receiver is ultra talented. Eli has done a fantastic job developing WRs, but its stressful for him to be put in a position to have to continuely develop chemistry with new receivers, and make no mistake, it doesn’t help him.

      Its a real quandry, and how Reese handles it, determines everything.

  8. Krow — I like the metaphor and I agree that we certainly don’t have all the facts.

    But that’s exactly why I didn’t really get into numbers. The Giants know what fair numbers are and will likely offer them to both players (Reese knows when to spend money, and a 1-2 punch like Nicks-Cruz is as good of one as I’ve ever seen on the Giants).

    But when you reduce it all, whatever the numbers look like, Cruz’ contract will be secondary to Nicks’. That’s just how it’s got to be.

  9.  LUZZ says:

    I never realized how much the CBA limits the ability for undrafted players to collect a payday. Drafted players (especially high draft picks) are far better positioned to make money. RFAs really have to play a couple years at league minimum before the CBA lets them “cash in”.

    Guys like Marvin Austin and Jerigan will earn much better money than Cruz and Stevie Brown simply due to the way the CBA favors them. Its an interesting piece to building a roster that i wasn’t familiar with prior to spending time on G101.

    With this in mind, the ability to sign street RFAs after the draft becomes almost as important a skill of a front office as the draft itself.

  10.  LUZZ says:

    So, to state the obvious, guys like Cruz, Stevie brown, and Will Hill are worth their weight in gold since we essentially get starting caliber players for several years at league minimum and when they hit FA we get to place tenders on them.

    Hitting on several of these type of street FA becomes just as important as hitting on your top draft picks, or at least almost as important.

    •  jfunk says:

      I think that’s debatable. The drafted rookies are locked up for 4 years. Guys drafted in the late rounds aren’t getting much of any money during those years either.

      Victor Cruz will at least be getting $2M+ during his 4th year even just under the tender, where he’d still be under contract for a few hundred thousand if he was a late round pick.

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