Sep 8, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz (80) makes a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT

Why the Giants Didn't Play Hardball with Victor Cruz

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Our friend Dennis Agapito, who is a co-host on our Green and Blue review show seen every Wednesday night right here on GMenHQ, sent in a quick article on the Giants and Victor Cruz.  Dennis is also the business writer for JetNation.com

All Giants fans were happy to lock up wide receiver Victor Cruz this offseason with a long term contract.  Cruz was a restricted free agent entering the 2013 offseason and the Giants gave him a contract offer or “first-round tender” of $2.879 million.  The team had “right of first refusal” which means they could match any offer made to Cruz or would receive first round draft pick compensation if another team did sign him.

After the restricted free agent signing period ended Cruz was going to be a Giant, so he and the team began long term contract talks.  Both sides eventually agreed to a five-year $43 million extension which keeps Cruz under contract until 2018 with the receiver’s salary cap hit dropping from $2.879 to $2.53 million in 2013.

The positives, locking up Cruz and saving some cap space this season, are evident but the Giants could have taken more of a “hardball” approach.  They could have forced Cruz to play under his original tender $2.89 million and tried to work out a long term deal next year because while he cost less this season then the tender he cost $7.424 million on the 2014 cap. 

According to former NFL agent and National Football Post columnist Joel Corry there was a good reason to lock up Cruz now, “Getting Victor Cruz under a long term contract provides the Giants with the needed flexibility to deal with pending free agent wide receiver Hakeem Nicks,” Corry said. “Teams can only franchise (restrict) one player a year by locking up Cruz they leave the franchise tag option open for Nicks.”

The franchise tags get determined by an NFL formula for each position at the end of the season and wide receivers were $10.5 million heading into 2013.  If the Giants choose to franchise Nicks in 2014 the salary is guaranteed for one year and goes on the team’s salary cap when the next league year begins.  Nicks could be signed by another team but the Giants hold right of first refusal or would receive two first round draft picks from the signing team.  Basically Nicks would not be going anywhere.

The Giants and Nicks would have until July 15th to work out a long term deal which would likely lessen the close to $11 million cap hit they would take if he played under the franchise tag.  It is in Nicks’ best interest to get the security of a long term deal rather than risking playing under a one-year contract, so the Giants would have some leverage to get a fair deal done.

From a salary cap stand point it would have benefited the Giants to have Cruz play under his tender and give him the same deal next year saving almost $5 million on the 2014 cap.  This strategy however would prevent the Giants from restricting both players, possible allowing Cruz or Nicks to hit unrestricted free agency, losing one to another team.  By getting Cruz under contract the Giants now have the means necessary to retain Nicks for the long term if they choose to do so. 

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