- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Justin Tuck thinks Victor Cruz "did the smart thing" by signing his restricted free-agent tender with the New York Giants, and of course he does. It's not Tuck's job to worry about the long-term financial implications of a potential Cruz holdout. Tuck's got one year left on his own deal and needs to help make this a big year for himself and for the team if he wants to stick around in New York. So of course he's happy Cruz signed the tender. Tuck's thinking about the 2013 Giants, who need Cruz. The 2014 Giants and beyond, well, they could well be someone else's problem.
And so in reading this and thinking about it, it occurred to me that there are those two different and not necessarily convergent perspectives on the Cruz situation -- the one that regards his current mindset and preparation as it pertains to the Giants' 2013 success, and the one that regards the feasibility of him and/or Hakeem Nicks sticking around with the Giants beyond 2013.
It's my assumption that the vast majority of Giants fans, like Tuck, are more interested in the former. And I wouldn't worry about that too much. Cruz is no slacker, and I'm sure what Tuck says there in Ohm's notebook about him keeping himself in shape is true. He and Eli Manning have spent enough time together that they don't need to establish a rapport or anything like that. Assuming Cruz shows up for camp (which we can't assume, but which I imagine is more likely than not), he should be ready for the season without any trouble. And assuming he and his quarterback stay healthy, there's no reason to doubt that he can repeat his numbers from the past two seasons.
But if he does that, and if Nicks stays healthy as well, the Giants have a situation that may get tricky to resolve. Keeping both Nicks and Cruz at premium prices is going to be a challenge for a team that spends $20 million of its cap on the quarterback position and struggles to create cap room every offseason. They're likely to be faced with a tough choice, and if they are, they're likely to choose Nicks as the more complete, all-around, No. 1-type receiver. But they clearly value Cruz and want him on the team, so it's not as simple as just assuming Rueben Randle will be ready and all will be okay as the Giants transition smoothly from one receiving corps to another.
Obviously, from the Giants' perspective, Cruz signing the tender was the smart thing to do. It gives them reason to believe they'll have their team whole when the season starts and that their offense can function as they've planned it to behind Manning and a high-powered passing game. If Cruz were still a serious regular-season holdout risk, they'd be scrambling to figure out who from the group of Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and Louis Murphy could pick up the slack. And while there is some evidence for the belief that Manning gets the best out of whichever receivers he has, it's clear from significance of the Giants' reported offer to Cruz that they don't see him as immediately replaceable.
That could change in a year. Seven months from now, Cruz could look much easier or much harder to replace. The Giants would prefer to get him locked up now so they don't have to add this to their list of 2014 concerns. But since they can't, they'll have to settle for at least a short-term resolution of a larger problem.
7hEric D. Williams