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

Thursday, May 23, 2013
Giants must find way to pay Nicks, Cruz

By Ohm Youngmisuk

UPDATED: Yahoo! Sports has corrected its recent report, saying now that it erroneously reported Hakeem Nicks' absence from the OTA on Wednesday was contract-related.

When an agitated Tom Coughlin said he was fully expecting Hakeem Nicks to be at the first day of OTAs, I began to wonder why Nicks was absent.

Sources also said on Thursday that Nicks isn't expected to be in attendance for the Giants second voluntary OTA workout. But it appears none of this is contract-related. Nicks had been with the team previously in the offseason and isn't the type to just pull a no-show. He was in town the night before, being honored by the United Way for providing backpacks of healthy food and snacks for disadvantaged kids in the area.

Initially, Yahoo! Sports reported that Nicks wanted to send "the team a little message by not showing up for practice Wednesday." But on Thursday, Yahoo! corrected the story, saying that Nicks' agent, Peter Schaffer, strongly denied the receiver's absence from OTA was contract-related and that the report's source didn't know why Nicks was not there and was making an educated guess.

So, even with that cleared up, Nicks' absence still forced us to start thinking about his contract. After all, on Wednesday we got a glimpse of life without Nicks and Victor Cruz. It was a lot of Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, Louis Murphy and Brandon Collins. While Jernigan and Murphy showed flashes, the Giants and Eli Manning need their best playmakers on the field.

Fortunately, Nicks and Cruz aren't the type of personalities to try to wreak havoc or act like diva wide receivers. Sure, Cruz is not participating in OTAs thus far because he is trying to negotiate a long-term extension. But these OTAs are voluntary. Nicks is under contract but entering the final year of his deal and he, too, doesn't absolutely need to be at OTA since he would be limited anyways as he recovers from a minor offseason knee scope.

So it might not be a big deal if they aren't around for now. But all this brings us to the attention the Giants will have to give their two star receivers.

The Giants usually have a number they are willing to pay their star players and try to stick to that scale, which makes sense and has worked for them. With a ton of money tied to Manning and with Jason Pierre-Paul eventually up for a considerable raise in the future, the Giants have to be fiscally responsible.

But in my mind, it's imperative they keep Nicks and Cruz, two young stars entering their prime. Both receivers deserved to be paid within reason. Keeping the tandem together with Manning would keep the offense humming for several more years. Can the Giants keep both without breaking the bank? When all is said and done, my guess is yes. But it won't be easy.

BThe Giants are willing to pay more to Nicks. The Giants consider their former first-round pick their No. 1 receiver. The Giants also want to keep Cruz and appreciate all he has done for them, but knowing they have to pay Nicks means they only want to give Cruz so much. The Giants also probably only want to pay a certain amount to Nicks, who has had a history of injuries.

Like with Cruz, there's no rush to get anything done right now with Nicks. But it's also not good to have your top two receivers unhappy or worried about their futures or getting injured, which could be an issue the longer the negotiations go on. Will Nicks be content playing this season without an extension and having to try to increase his value? Will Cruz be content to do the same on a one-year RFA tender?

Next month, the Giants have a mandatory veteran's minicamp. Will Nicks and Cruz be there? My guess is yes with Nicks. Cruz's future is a little stickier since he hasn't signed his tender. But it wouldn't surprise me either way with Cruz.

I still don't foresee either receiver holding out of training camp in late July and August. But when will the two get the raises they deserve? That's hard to predict. Stay tuned.