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Wide Receiver Contracts Setting the Stage for New York Giants’ Hakeem Nicks & Victor Cruz

March 5th, 2013 at 12:30 PM
By Dan Benton

Ca-ching. That's what both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz heard when the Kansas City Chiefs agreed to a five-year, $56 million ($26 million guaranteed) deal with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. It will, at least in part, help both the New York Giants' young wide receivers when it comes to the negotiating table.

'Victor Cruz makes the catch' photo (c) 2011, Kathy Vitulano - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Whether or not Bowe's contract is a solid one for the Chiefs (it's not) is irrelevant. The same can be said about the five-year, $55.55 million deal the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave Vincent Jackson a year ago, and the $6-$6.5 million annual deal the Miami Dolphins are about to give Brian Hartline. The bottom line is it sets the tone for both Nicks and Cruz, and will likely cost the Giants either the players or a lot of money they wouldn't have otherwise wanted to spend.

In early February, Giants 101 shared an editorial suggesting that over-paying Cruz would be the wrong decision, and that co-owner John Mara had it right when he said the team would not break the bank for their No. 2 wide receiver. We stand by that opinion, and Mara probably does, too. Unfortunately, the landscape has changed, and with new contracts coming up for Wes Welker, Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings, it's about to get worse before it gets better.

The agents for both Cruz and Nicks now have a distinct advantage, and if wild trends continue, will have even more in their pocket following the aforementioned contracts of Welker, Jennings and Wallace. It's gotten to the point where Cruz, who was once anxious to get a deal done as quickly as possible, will now benefit from patience. His value will continue to increase as NFL General Managers drop absurd amounts of money on wide receivers.

In comparison, this is how Cruz stacks up over the last two years against some of the league's premiere receivers – both under contract or about to score a big deal of their own:

Victor Cruz: 168 catches for 2,628 yards and 19 TDs
A.J. Green: 162 catches for 2,407 yards and 18 TDs
Vincent Jackson: 132 catches for 2,490 and 17 TDs
Julio Jones: 133 catches for 2,157 yards and 18 TDs
Dwayne Bowe: 140 catches for 1,960 yards and 8 TDs
Mike Wallace: 136 catches for 2,029 yards and 16 TDs

And although most of those players represent over-done contracts or soon-to-be over-done contracts, it's the deal Hartline is about to receive that will push Cruz up into that $8-$10 million annual range he wants to be in.

Brian Hartline (over the same two-year span): 109 catches for 1,632 yards and 2 TDs

And then there is Nicks, who will certainly benefit from the Bowe deal the most. Despite missing a lot of time a season ago, his numbers of the last three seasons stack up against the best of them.

Bowe: 45 games, 212 catches for 3,122 yards and 23 TDs
Nicks: 41 games, 208 catches for 2,936 yards and 21 TDs

Big money is coming, and although the Giants still have some leverage with Cruz a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) and Nicks with a year remaining, it may behoove them to sign some long-term deals or risk waiting for even larger contracts to hit the board a year from now.

Also…

Tags: Dwayne Bowe, Football, Greg Jennings, Hakeem Nicks, John Mara, Mike Wallace, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Victor Cruz, Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker

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31 Responses to “Wide Receiver Contracts Setting the Stage for New York Giants’ Hakeem Nicks & Victor Cruz”

  1.  GOAT56 says:

    I can’t see us keeping both if both WR are trying to get near market value. I don;t agree with keeping both WR even at modest deals just because it’s too much tied up in WR in my view. However, if we are trying to keep both the deals still have to be reasonable. And at least from the Cruz side it doesn’t seem like he’s willing to give much if any discount. Nicks would seem like a better hope because another injury riddled year would really hurt his free agent value in 2014. So maybe he’s willing to take a lower offer than I would expect. I still doubt it. Free agent pure #1 WRs in their primes don’t often become free agents and when they do, they will be paid like with Vincent Jackson. WRs like Wallace and Jennings are being built as # 1 and will get paid well. And both are coming off horrible seasons. Both Nicks and Cruz are going to get paid, just likely by not us both.

  2.  Nosh.0 says:

    Last I’ll say on the matter. We’ve put Cruz’ game under a microscope and never once done the same for Nicks.

    My concern with Nicks going forward is
    1. Can he stay healthy?
    2. Will the variety of leg injuries he’s had hurt his speed and quickness long term?

    Heres some of #88′s injuries since he’s been a pro.
    - Compartment Syndrome in lower right leg
    - Meniscus tear
    - Broken Bone in foot
    - Foot sprain
    - Minor hamstring problems since his rookie combine

    Are all these just minor bumps and bruises that will have no effect on him long term or will they, along with age, take away some of his speed, quickness and playmaking ability?

    But no one wants to have a legitimate debate about #88. He’s the golden boy.

    Wake me up when we can talk about Cruz and Nicks like grown ups. Until then this stuff is simply one guy on a pedestal and one guys not.

    •  Chad Eldred says:

      You’re absolutely justified in being concerned about Nicks’ injury history. He rarely takes the field without some nagging problem. I don’t think that a discussion about re-signing him can be had without considering the points you just mentioned. That being said, this is a big year for Nicks. He absolutely needs to play a healthy year if he wants to cash in. If he doesn’t, the injury question is going to significantly affect contract negotiations with us or any interested party.

    •  fanfor55years says:

      fanfor55years says:
      March 5, 2013 at 1:19 PM

      Oh please. It’s YOU who is irrational.

      Compartment syndrome is a time-specific result of bleeding after an injury that wasn’t treated properly to start. It was caught, treated, and it’s over. Absolutely irrelevant to the future.

      Minor hamstring injuries? What NFL receiver hasn’t had to deal with those? And while he was “dealing” with them he was also racing past defenders to get balls or to make short passes into long plays. Not a big deal.

      Foot sprain? Come on, get serious. Meniscus is something I’ve had and I played football with it for three years and have since played tennis, squash, basketball, etc. without any problems 45 years later. The broken bone in the foot is completely healed and doctors have said the bone is stronger now than it ever was before.

      So, yeah, if he slows down it will be from age, and he is far from old. In fact, he’s what, two years older than Cruz? Your arguments hold no water. If you want to argue that Cruz is better go right ahead, but stop with the nonsense that no one has “looked” at Nicks in a fair way.

  3.  Chad Eldred says:

    Since it seems that many feel we won’t sign Cruz at the pay level that will be required to keep him, I suppose the question is which is better? Someone signing Cruz while he’s tendered and we receive compensation, or Cruz playing this year and walking?

  4.  rlhjr says:

    REPOST:

    I’m not sure if anyone thinks more of Cruz than I do. That said, no one player can destroy a teams master plan to properly build. As difficult as it may be, the Giants have to focus on nailing down the difference makers, and drafting a few more.

    In case we have forgotten, the Giants receivers complement each other.
    Nicks is the center piece, a team with Cruz and Randle is going to be almost impossible to stop when all elements of the offense are working.

    And you never know what the end game is going to be. A first round draft choice for Cruz will become very important. Or maybe the money to sign him can be found between this year and next. Reese has to move on the the next issue because Cruz will help either on the field this year, or via a first round pick that may be even more beneficial in the long run. And that is what all this to do is about; The Long Run. It’s no secrete that Reese is paid to think years ahead, as well as the present. Like an expert chess player, he has to be several moves ahead of the game, or he’s toast.

    Don’t discount Randle. He is smooth, deceptively fast and strong. There is not a head and shoulders better receiver on the Giant roster. And that includes Nicks. And yes I’m talking about potential. Of course Nicks and Cruz are better now. But as he progresses, Randle will prove to be every bit as talented as either Nicks or Cruz. IMHO

    Not saying there may not be a surprise afoot. Because we all know that Reese is looking at Nicks injury history too. And he’s also looking at the physical mismatch that Nicks prsents every snap. Stay tuned.

  5.  fanfor55years says:

    Well, I hope at this very moment Jim Harbaugh and Bill Belichick are deciding that they desperately need Victor Cruz and are willing to offer a late first-round pick and a fat contract to get him. He has burned both of their defenses, and each of those teams has the ability to give up their first pick (that would leave the Niners with “only” three picks in the first 50). Cruz would vastly improve either of those teams.

    Would I be happy to see Cruz leave? Hell no, and that would be the attitude of EVERY fan of the Giants. But since I see no way he won’t be gone by 2014 I’d sure like to get a first-round pick in exchange. Anyone thinking we could retain both Cruz and Nicks will have to explain to me how, even with an increase in the cap of about $20MM + in 2015, we could afford to have over $20MM invested in our wide receivers with Reuben Randle coming up for negotiation the next season. It just ain’t happening and the Giants know that.

  6.  GOAT56 says:

    Look there is no certainty about health in the NFL. Look at Chris Canty who had never missed a game before signing with us then he’s eventually cut for not being healthy. Anyone remember Mike Sherrod? How about Jimmy Smith? Both players missed years at the bringing of their careers with injuries then went to have a near HOF career in Smith and a productive player in Sherrod.

    Unless our doctors have some concern then I don’t think we should. How’s Kiwi doing health wise these days?

    Look Cruz it no lock to remain healthy either. The bs IR hamstring injury still would have cost Cruz several weeks to recover from so he hasn’t been invincible.

    If you think a slot WR who plays above average outside and has great after the catch ability but not top tier is worth more than a true #1 WR, that’s your opinion. I think it’s wrong. But Cruz’s health is not going to convince me to take a lessor player and a player who is not as important i this offense. Let’s not forget that Hixon had a good game vs the Saints in the slot before he got hurt. I think Eli will be good slot production without Cruz even though that player won’t be Cruz. It’s the same at TE. We can get enough production without Bennett that losing a better player won’t hurt us too much.

    •  LUZZ says:

      The question isn’t whether Cruz is more valuable than a #1, because we all know he is. The real question is if there is no way to retain all of Cruz, Nicks and JPP in the coming 18 months, then would we be better off being compensated with a #1 pick? Assuming there is no way to pay all 3 of these stars top $$ in the next 18 months (and I am in the camp that there isn’t a way to pay all three) then I agree, we’re better off getting the tender for Cruz than watching him walk after this year and getting nothing in return. This is the question we’re trying to answer.

      •  GOAT56 says:

        I don’t see it like that as all. While I agree the tender is coming, it’s not a given at all that some team is willing to give up a #1 pick and pay Cruz. With the cap situation giving up a high pick and money is a lot. NE I know makes sense but paying Brady, the 2 TEs and Cruz on long term big money deals seems like a lot. Not impossible at all but not as likely as some think.

        A first round pick for a player only here for one more year is a easy choice. But I expect Cruz to play here in 2013 under the tender and then walk in 2014.

        •  LUZZ says:

          That could very happen. I hope we get the 1st round pick though. Probably a 35% chance it happens, but it would be best case scenario for us is all I’m saying.

          •  GOAT56 says:

            I don’t see getting a talent like him at WR for 1 year at 2.9 mil as a bad deal even if he walks.

            •  LUZZ says:

              Not sure we are communicating here, Goat. I’m acknowledging that we will miss him if he walks and there WILL be a drop off in talent if he’s not on the team in 2013. If he is leaving anyway, it would be better for us in a long term to be compensated for him rather than not.

              •  GOAT56 says:

                I agree with you. I’m just adding we are in a good short term position with him. Either we get him at one year for under 3 mil or we get a first round pick. Both sound good to me.

  7.  GOAT56 says:

    Coughlin: Protracted Cruz talks “a little bit frustrating”

    Giants coach Tom Coughlin is out promoting a new book, but he’d prefer his players have their business taken care of already.

    During an appearance Tuesday, Coughlin admitted the lingering uncertainty about wide receiver Victor Cruz’s contract was of some concern.

    “I like to think that I can control everything, and that I can have something to do with making sure that something gets done that I think would be beneficial to everyone,” Coughlin said, via Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger. “And certainly I believe that about Victor. We want Victor to be a Giant until the end of his career, but obviously he and his people, his agents, they’ve got to make that call.

    “It’s a little bit frustrating in that you’d like to have it done, that’s all.”

    Of course, Cruz is still a restricted free agent, which means the Giants can retain his rights with a tender offer until a long-term contract is reached. That’s why Coughlin replied “I think so,” when asked if he could count on Cruz being around in 2013.

    Coughlin said he spoke with Cruz recently, and said he expressed his desire to keep him around long-term.

    “Well, in my own terms, yes,” Coughlin said.

    While there aren’t necessarily signs of trouble at the moment, coming to contract terms with Cruz is taking a bit more time than Coughlin would prefer.

    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/03/05/coughlin-protracted-cruz-talks-a-little-bit-frustrating/

  8.  rlhjr says:

    Well if Cruz departs, does that mean that Bennett stays? I agree that Eli can throw just about any receiver open. So the effect of no Cruz (NEXT) year is to some extent minimized. but a worthy talent has to be found. You can’t throw a bum in there. If Jernigan can play, it’s almost a wash. Given that Eli stays sound has a running game and the O-line protects him.

    Which brings up back to the draft and the need for a stud to be inserted into that offensive line. You have to think that the team know more about Jernigan than we do. One thing we do know. Jernigan is as fast if not faster than Cruz straight line.

    •  LUZZ says:

      Not sure Jerrigan is faster than Cruz. I’ve never seen Cruz get caught from behind, and he has scored some really long TDs. You have to assume there would be a drop off from Cruz to JJ, the question is how much of a drop off. I don’t want to understate what Cruz is when I say I’d rather get a 1st rounder for him than watch him walk in 2014 and get nothing in return. Let’s be clear, Cruz is a top talent and will be very difficult to replace. However, if he’s eventually leaving let’s get something for him and hope our WR depth, the JPP of TEs, and Wilson can replace his production.

      •  rlhjr says:

        Agreed. But I would not sell Jernigan short speed wise. I think he can go.
        And we’ve not had a chance to see him switch gears. The dude is swift.

        •  LUZZ says:

          Fair enough. Admittedly, I really don’t know much about JJ. I hope he’s a player. we may find out soon!

  9.  ERICHONIUS says:

    @FF55
    There is something to be said about being injury prone. There is a mountain of evidence that suggests there are genetic predispositions that make some people fragile. So, there is an argument to be made that Nicks may be less valuable than Cruz because of the risk of injury. While none of Nicks injuries are the type which might affect his future play, the fact he has hardly played a game in his four year career uninjured and has missed significant time because of injury could be an indicator of a deeper problem, such as a predisposition toward injury. I believe that a near-healthy Nicks is, perhaps, the best WR in the league and more valuable than Cruz, but I also fear the negative synergism between his seeming propensity for injury and age. If as a 21-25 year old he cannot stay healthy, what will he be like at age 30? Will he still be in the league at age 35? These are a few rational questions that JR must ask himself as he is trying to work out a deal with either WR.

    With this said, I also have significant questions about Cruz. He disappeared in the second half of last year. It seemed to me that other teams DB’s were targeting Cruz and after big hits he would disappear. So I do not feel there is an easy answer (probably the reason why one has not already been extended). I think that perhaps JR should try to sign Cruz for one year and then as the season progresses perhaps the issue may work itself out (level of play, injury). If Cruz is picked up by another team, (shrug) what can we do in our cap situation? and we get a 1st round pick.

    •  rlhjr says:

      Good post. It is only fair to point out that while Nicks can/has recovered from injury. The facts support that he will invariably be injured at some point every season. You temper that with understanding that at some point in every NFL season every player is hurt. The ability to play at a high level with injury parses the good from the great.

      Nicks played, but his injury limited him. He was clearly not the same force of nature. But Cruz (due to stature) was not able to fully fill his shoes. As good as he is, Cruz will never physically dominate like a healthy Nicks can.
      The key? Strong number two outside guy and good depth. I think the Giants have a strong number two outside guy in Randle. The depth question is to be answered by Jernigan.

    •  fanfor55years says:

      I understand your point but except this past year, when he should not have been allowed to put off the operation he needed, Nicks has played through those injuries and played at an extremely high level.

      I will point all who think that a series of injuries bodes poorly for the future to our soon-to-be-Hall-of Famer Michael Strahan. This guy suffered a number of serious injuries through his career, yet he had a great career and played at such a high level that he is considered by most among the 3-4 best defensive ends to ever play the game. You could say he was injury-prone. Or you could say that despite his injuries he was one of the greatest players to ever put on the uniform.

      I believe Hakeem Nicks is a HOF receiver. I’m not about to give that up because he has suffered some dings, only one of which hurt his production and was really mistreated by both he and the medical staff.

      I guess we’ll all have to wait and see what the team does about these guys. I’ve said from Day 1 that my expectation is that we tender Cruz, he squawks and threatens not to be at camp but shows up a few days late, we have him for 2013, and then barring injury to Nicks (and, I should add, Randle), he walks for a big contract that he will never get from the Giants.

  10.  rlhjr says:

    Stray had a torn pectoral, bicep and the lisfranc. Each time they shut him down. Each time Strahan put in the work to come back to his standard of performance.

    Nicks is a big strong kid. And could play well under a number of circumstances. However, I’ve no idea why the Giants medical staff did not shut him down and fix him. He would have been back by week 7 or 8.
    That said, his effort was game and admirable. But nowhere near his standard.

    That does not diminish him in my eyes. It does however raise one’s eye brow at the Giants medical staff. What were they thinking?

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