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Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Eli Manning: 'I want Victor back'

By Ohm Youngmisuk
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Eli Manning admits the Victor Cruz's contract situation is "nerve-racking" and says he is willing to consider restructuring his contract if it helps.

Manning hasn't been approached by the New York Giants about his deal, but the Giants franchise quarterback hopes in the meantime that Cruz's decision to sign with his agent, Tom Condon, will help keep the successful tandem together for years to come.

"If the Giants want to work something out, I am always up for listening and figuring out what I can do to help the cause," Manning said when asked if he would restructure his contract while making an appearance at the Samsung Spring Launch at the Museum of American Finance. "That is kind of up to the Giants and what they want to do. I am always up for listening and doing whatever is best for the team to put us in a [situation] to win more championships."

Manning said he has been reading the newspapers every day looking to see if another team will make a contract offer to Cruz, who is a restricted free agent. The Giants tendered Cruz with a first-round tender, giving them the right to match any offer sheet made by another team. If the Giants opt not to match a contract offer, they will receive a first-round pick as compensation.

Cruz has been trying to work out a long-term extension with the Giants since last season and has been unsuccessful. If Cruz does not receive an offer from another team -- odds that are in the Giants' favor since any team that wants Cruz has to be willing to sign him to a lucrative deal and surrender a first-round pick -- he will be back with the Giants for at least this season and can continue to work on a new deal.

Cruz switched to Condon last week. Condon has a good working relationship with the Giants and represents Manning, Mathias Kiwanuka, Mark Herzlich and Osi Umenyiora (who signed with Condon last year).

"I've been sending a few texts to him. 'Yeah, hey, get this done. Make sure he stays with us,'" Manning said with a chuckle. "Obviously I want Victor back with the Giants, and obviously right now he is [tendered].

"I check the papers every morning to make sure no one else has offered him a contract. It is nerve-racking though. He is anxious. I know he has been dealing with this contract issue for a long time. I know he wants it just settled and wants to get back to playing football and just worrying about that."

Speaking at the league owners meetings, coach Tom Coughlin said he is not going to worry about the Cruz situation.

"No. I'm going to be optimistic in favor of Victor Cruz being in a Giant uniform," Coughlin told reporters in Arizona. "That's my position on that. I don't speculate in any of the other ways."

"I'm not as happy as I would be if it was settled and the issue was completed," he later admitted. "That's something that were all hoping for, the entire Giant organization is hoping that this situation can be settled and we can put this to rest."

The Giants have been hampered by their tight salary cap situation and are looking to free up more cap space. The team wants to re-sign left guard Kevin Boothe.

They may work with offensive lineman David Diehl on altering his contract.

Manning is due to earn $13 million in base salary this season, and his contract runs through 2015.

In the meantime, he is hopeful that his agent will work out something with the Giants and Cruz to keep the quarterback happy.

"Tom is the best in the business. He has worked with the Giants on a number of players, so I think they trust him," Manning said. "And he knows what the best way [is] to get Victor to stay with the Giants for hopefully a long time."

Manning said he has been in contact with Cruz and his other star receiver, Hakeem Nicks. Nicks was plagued all season by foot and knee injuries, but Manning said the receiver will be ready to go for training in the spring.

"Hakeem is doing well," Manning said. "Talked to him the other day, and he's training and getting ready, and he'll be ready when we start the spring. He'll be full go and running, so that's good."