Giants WR Victor Cruz is making a base salary of $540,000 this season and likely leads the NFL in some kind of receiving-prowess-per-dollar statistic. He probably has for the past two seasons, in which he has been among the leaders in both receptions and yards.
So why might the Giants, rumored to be deep in negotiations with Cruz on a long-term extension, want to pay him more money than they have to? Cruz is only set for restricted free agency in the offseason, and the Giants could enact mechanisms to make sure he remains a Giant for the long haul without signing him to a long-term deal yet.
Per NFLPA figures, the Giants are a little more than $2 million below the salary cap for this season, so there’s not a ton of wiggle room. So again, why?
Here’s why: It’s likely the best solution long term. Not only would it make one of the team’s best players happy, but it also could save the Giants money down the road. There aren’t too many comparisons to draw on, contract-wise, because Cruz’s meteoric rise is seen as a bit unique in recent league history.
But the thinking is that as his game matures further — we’ve already seen evidence of it at times versus coverages designed to stop him — Cruz will become even more valuable. The Lions, for instance, waited until this offseason to re-sign Calvin Johnson, after five years in the league, and it cost them: He signed a seven-year deal worth a whopping $132 million ($60 million guaranteed).
Now, Cruz is not in Johnson’s class as a receiver — even with Johnson’s struggles, likely related to health, this season. But the point is the same: It’s best, if the Giants can, to sign Cruz to a deal that is friendly to him now and perhaps cap-friendly to the team long term.
You could argue that a similar approach backfired with DE Osi Umenyiora, who signed a six-year deal worth $41 million but for several years requested a new deal almost every year thereafter.
The Giants have to take care of Cruz, Jason Pierre-Paul, Hakeem Nicks and Linval Joseph, too. Pierre-Paul might even be the higher priority with Umenyiora and Justin Tuck appearing to be in decline. But both sides could be happy with a contract for Cruz that makes sense right now.