With the slew of monster contracts that have been handed out to the likes of Calvin Johnson, Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Brown this offseason, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz is surely looking forward to the day when he himself signs a deal that represents his talent level. After posting 1,536 receiving yards along with nine touchdowns in 2011, Cruz will earn $540,000 this upcoming season, which is significantly less than what most other star NFL wideouts are paid.
Although Cruz has publicly stated that his contract situation will not effect his play on the field, he surely must be cognizant of the fact that he is severely underpaid. General Manager Jerry Reese recently opened the door to begin negotiating an extension for Cruz, who will be a restricted free agent after this season.
"It could happen. All those options are open," Reese said. "I just think Victor is focused on being a good football player again. The contract situation will take care of itself."
Looking ahead to next offseason, the Giants could be facing quite the conundrum. Currently, the team has two players worthy of making number one wide receiver money in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, but neither of which are being paid commensurate with their talent level yet. With an already tight salary cap situation, the Giants are going to have trouble absorbing two huge contracts within a year of each other.
Furthermore, the timing of these contract situations could not be worse. With each player performing at their peak, it would be extremely difficult to give a new deal to either Cruz or Nicks without giving one to the other as well. Although Cruz will hit free agency a year before Nicks, giving a long term contract to Cruz could disgruntle the teams 2009 first-round pick. Because Cruz will hit free agency first, he seems to be the most likely candidate to get paid first.
While examining the current market value for top wide receivers, Victor Cruz is most likely going to receive somewhere around a 5-year/$40-$50 million contract (assuming he has another stellar season in 2012). With Hakeem Nicks likely wanting a deal in the same range, the Giants are looking at absorbing an additional $15-$20 million in annual cap hits over the next two offseasons from those two players alone.
As a team that currently only has around $3 million in available cap space, general manager Jerry Resse is going to have a to find a very creative method in which to keep his two star receivers happy, without compromising other important areas on the roster.
However, retaining both Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks is essential to the Giants future success. As the NFL continues to evolve into a pass-first league, having a devastating wide receiver duo like Cruz and Nicks will be crucial to the teams ability to compete for championships.
Although neither player has made an major issue about their contract situation thus far, this problem is looming on the horizon. It is highly unlikely that the Giants will be able to absorb two mammoth contracts at the same time, so at the very least it looks as if their will be some drama with Hakeem Nicks next offseason.
Obviously, there is a long season ahead and anything can happen. Injuries, poor performance, and any one of a number of factors could drastically change the market value of one of these players virtually over night. Furthermore, Jerry Reese has seemed fairly confident that a deal will get done. As general manager, he has done a phenomenal job of brining in young, talented players, some of which have transformed into super stars.
In the near future, some of the biggest decisions Reese will ever make will be on how to keep his core group of players together. While the Giants don't have anything to worry about quite yet, this will be a situation to keep an eye on going forward.
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