Victor Cruz contract complicated by Hakeem Nicks' future
Since the deadline for restricted free agent Victor Cruz to sign an offer sheet with another team passed weeks ago, the Giants' wide receiver has limited options left on the table.
He can sign the one-year, $2.879 million contract tender that Giants placed on him to prevent him from leaving as an unrestricted free agent. Cruz also could say yes to the more lucrative, longer-term offer New York has presented him (reportedly $8 million per year with at least $15 million guaranteed). And, of course, Cruz could go the holdout route -- he needs to play just six games, a la Vincent Jackson in 2010, to accrue a year toward free agency, thus potentially giving him unrestricted freedom next year.
Giants GM John Mara knows all the scenarios -- including the fourth, doomsday possibility of Cruz sitting out the entire 2013 season, though that would simply push his current contract onto 2014. So, it's not surprising to hear him say that the situation is under control, as he did Monday on the NFL Network.
"I'm pretty confident that we'll end up reaching a deal with [Cruz]," Giants co-owner John Mara told NFL Network's "NFL AM" on Tuesday. "This is not that atypical a situation. Player contracts, particularly with star players like Victor, can tend to drag on from time to time. I think we'll get it done.
"This is the right place for him to play. He's a star in this area, he's an important part of our team, and I think we'll eventually get a deal done, but it's just a process that you have to go through. And we're going through it right now. There's communication, and it's slow but steady, and I think at some point we'll reach a deal."
The Giants can ill-afford to lose the 26-year-old Cruz, who came out of nowhere to produce an 82-catch 2012, then followed it up with 86 receptions and 10 touchdowns last season. They dodged a bit of a bullet, then, as the other 31 teams in the league opted against trying to pry Cruz away from New York.
All indications (including that he has not signed yet) are that Cruz wants to earn more, and perhaps a great deal more, than the current $8 million-per-year offer he's believed to have. Just seven wide receivers currently make more than $10 million per season on average.
The other issue at play here for New York, aside from being somewhat limited by the salary cap, is that Hakeem Nicks has just one year left on his current contract. The Giants might opt to use the franchise tag on Nicks after the 2013 season, and the receiver price tag climbed north of $10.5 million this year. So, if the Giants plan to keep Nicks around, they need to ensure that they have the financial wiggle room necessary to do so.
Which brings us back to one of the topics of the early offseason: how the Giants are prioritizing their top two receivers.
For now, it appears that New York would prefer to get both Nicks and Cruz locked up for years to come. However, with Nicks' situation unresolved, are the Giants willing or able to up the ante on their offer to Cruz? If not, this standoff may continue on through training camp and possibly into the regular season. Mara may sound the alarm bell a little more loudly at that point.