- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW ORLEANS -- Interesting bit of news this morning from our man Adam Schefter, who reports that the New York Giants are "putting a bigger emphasis" on a new contract for wide receiver Hakeem Nicks than they are for fellow wide receiver Victor Cruz. After an injury-plagued season for Nicks, it seemed as though Cruz would be the star receiver the Giants preferred to lock up long term, but Adam's sources say otherwise.
Couple of things I think are at work here:
Nicks is, when healthy, the better player and the more likely candidate to be a true, traditional No. 1 wide receiver for the Giants for years to come. He has outperformed Cruz as a technician and, on occasion, a big-play threat when healthy. The issue is that he has not been consistently healthy. Foot and knee problems robbed him of practice time, games and overall effectiveness this year and have in the past. But if the Giants believe he can put his physical troubles behind him, he's the better all-around player and more worthy of their priorities.
Because of the unhealthy season he just had, the Giants might be able to get Nicks signed at a lower cost than they once imagined and less than top wideout money. For that reason, they may be more motivated to do a deal now with Nicks than with Cruz, who has more leverage against them after his Pro Bowl season.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, almost everything you hear at this time of year about contract negotiations falls to some degree into the category of posturing. Understand that I cannot speculate on Adam's sources, and I do not in any question the validity of his information. He's the best there is. But if I'm the Giants, I am very happy this morning to know that Cruz and his agents are reading and/or hearing reports that Nicks is closer to a deal than Cruz is. The idea that Nicks might get his money while Cruz has to wait for his is the kind of thing that could scare Cruz and/or his agents into dropping their demands and working towards getting a new contract done on something closer to the Giants' preferred terms.
Bottom line, Cruz fans: I wouldn't panic just yet. In the Giants' ideal world, they'd love to keep both of these guys. And it may be that they're working on something with Nicks that helps facilitate that. But just because Adam's reporting that Nicks is a higher priority doesn't mean you need to be worrying yet about Cruz leaving for another team. He's a restricted free agent, first of all, which means they can tender him and put off the long-term deal if they want to. And regardless of how that plays out, there's still likely a long way to go in negotiations with Cruz as well as Nicks.