The absence of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks from OTA's so far this offseason has been disheartening, especially to head coach Tom Coughlin. Although the Giants have benefited from the opportunity to scout the young talent stockpiled at wide receiver, the contract situations of both of Big Blue's star wideouts are less than ideal, and this offseason has been a reality check of gigantic proportions for Giants fans everywhere. The team may eventually have to choose between Nicks and Cruz, and no matter which way the front office decides, it's going to be an unpopular and highly scrutinized event.
Truth be told, the Giants would be able to survive the loss of either Nicks or Cruz. With Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and Louis Murphy lining the bottom of the depth chart, it's not inconceivable that one of those players emerges as a threat. Each youngster has a unique set of traits that have the ability to continue the Giants' offensive diversity and produce at a high level.
But if at all possible, the Giants want to avoid a scenario in which the team has to say goodbye to one of their highly coveted wideouts. Big Blue will likely have a tremendous amount of money coming off the salary cap next season, including veterans Chris Snee, Corey Webster and Justin Tuck, not to mention the slew of one-year contracts general manager Jerry Reese handed out this offseason. The Giants will have some wiggle room with the salary cap next season, but as some point, it becomes counterproductive to pay No. 1 wide receiver money to two players on one roster.
That's why the Giants have budged very little in negotiations with Cruz. In the NFL, slot receivers are a dime-a-dozen, and the Giants know that with Eli Manning under center, replacing Cruz would look more daunting on paper than it would in reality. Unless Randle emerges into a star, replacing Nicks would be a more precarious proposition.
There's not telling how long Cruz's contract soap opera continues to play out, but this negotiation will set the tone for Nicks' contract demands as well. The Giants can not afford to budge too far off their estimated evaluation of Cruz's worth, because doing so would likely result in the team losing Nicks in unrestricted free agency next offseason. The Giants are going to do all they can to avoid that scenario, but the contracts of the team's most productive wideouts is going to remain an uncertainty for the entirety of the season.
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