Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New York Giants [Print without images]

Monday, March 11, 2013
Analysis: Giants tender Cruz

By Ohm Youngmisuk



Owner John Mara said the Giants will tender three of their restricted free agents: Victor Cruz, Stevie Brown and Andre Brown.

Cruz will receive a first-round tender worth $2.879 million for this season. Stevie Brown and Andre Brown will get second-round tenders worth $2.023 million each.

So, what's next? A question that I almost get daily on Twitter is "Will Cruz walk?"


Fans are worried about losing Cruz. and understandably so since he has been arguably the Giants' most exciting player for the past two seasons. There are millions of reasons why the Giants should pay him millions, beginning with that he's a stand-up individual and budding marketing gem who caught Jay-Z's attention and already has deals hawking shoes, soup and cable TV.

Eli Manning and Cruz have hooked up 168 times for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns in the past two seasons. At 26, he is big-play threat entering his best years with a quarterback who is already in his prime. Cruz should only be better with a healthy Hakeem Nicks by his side this coming season.

Tendering Cruz is the Giants' move in trying to keep him around for at least this season and continue on working on a future deal.

Right of first refusal: What does that mean? Cruz's camp can negotiate with other teams until April 19. If a team opts to sign Cruz to an offer sheet, the Giants will have "right of first refusal." If the offer sheet is too rich for their blood, the Giants can choose not to match and would receive a first-round pick as compensation.

According to the New York Daily News, running back Mike Bell is the only RFA to change teams in the past four years, going from the Saints to the Eagles.

Teams generally like to hold on to their first-round picks. Also, a team will have to have cap space to pay Cruz a lucrative contract, certainly a lot more salary than they would have to invest in a first-round pick.

Cruz's camp will certainly be keeping an eye on how much receivers like Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings will sign for. And there's Percy Harvin, who was traded to Seattle and will reportedly sign a new contract.

Also consider that Miami recently re-signed Brian Hartline to a five-year deal worth as much as $31 million with $12.5 million guaranteed. Cruz is going to command more than that.

General manager Jerry Reese has to keep an eye on his team's future budget and wants to also lock down Nicks to an extension, with Nicks entering the final year of his contract. It will be difficult to pay both receivers top-notch money while also having to pay Manning and eventually Jason Pierre-Paul down the road.

Is it possible that a wide receiver-needy team like the Rams, who possess multiple first-round picks, could make a move for Cruz? Yes, it's possible. How likely, though, remains to be seen.

And if a team does offer Cruz a huge contract, it is possible the Giants might let Cruz go and take the first-round pick, since Reese values first-round picks. Also, while the Giants fully know how much Cruz has meant to them, they could argue that a former first-round pick like Nicks is worth paying bigger money to since they have had great success developing slot receivers like Steve Smith and Cruz and could try to do so again with someone like former third-round pick Jerrel Jernigan.

"Certainly, we're taking a risk, but we would still have to right to match and if we decided not to do that, we're getting a first-round draft pick out of it," co-owner John Mara told reporters, according to the Star-Ledger. "So yeah, it is a risk for us, and he is an exciting, dynamic player. It's not going to shock me if somebody makes him an offer."

Two agents who have dealt with the Giants believe Cruz will stay with the Giants this season due to the RFA tender.

Odds are in the Giants' favor: Both agents cited how the Giants pretty much hold the cards and leverage, and that likely means Cruz will remain a Giant for at least one more season, giving both sides the year to work on an extension.

A source confirmed Cruz is hiring a new agent, CAA's Tom Condon, which was first reported by USA Today. How that impacts negotiations remains to be seen, but this could be positive for the Giants since Condon represents Manning, Mathias Kiwanuka, Mark Herzlich and Osi Umenyiora (who hired Condon last season).

If you are a Giants and Cruz fan, just hope that another team does not make a monster offer to Cruz over the next month. Otherwise things could get sticky. For now, though, the odds are that Cruz and the salsa remain in New York for at least one more season.