Victor Cruz's Contract Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg For New York
Last month the New York Giants finally reached an agreement with WR Victor Cruz on a five-year contract extension worth around $43 million. The extension is on top of the $2.8 million that Cruz was scheduled to make in 2013, and at the end of the day, it works out to a six-year, $46 million deal that will make him one of the highest paid slot receivers in the league. Now that the big Cruz contract obstacle has been cleared, the Giants can breathe easy — but not too easy, though. Hakeem Nicks, the Giants' other big-name, big-play wide receiver will be a free-agent at the end of this season, and he's going to be looking for a payday even bigger than the one Cruz got — and deservedly so.
The nature of the league is such that big outside receivers such as Nicks make significantly more money than slot receivers like Cruz. In fact, the top five receivers in total yardage last season all happened to be outside receivers: big guys with good hands and dangerous speed like Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. Hakeem Nicks fits that mold, and as long as he stays healthy — which is still a big "if" — he'll be getting ready to back up a Brinks truck at the end of this season. The big question is will the Giants be the ones loading up the truck, or will it be another team with a need for a big playmaking receiver and a lot of cap space?
The truth is, the Giants may have cleared one hurdle by locking up Cruz, but they still have many hurdles left to clear in the coming seasons. The 2014 offseason will revolve around bringing back Nicks — if they can afford to. There's no escaping the fact that Nicks is extremely important to the Giants offense and has been since he arrived in 2009. Over the last two seasons, 70 percent of Eli Manning's passes have been directed at either Cruz or Nicks — that's over two-thirds of the Giants passing offense. Nicks played a vital role in the team's 2011 postseason success, and when he's healthy, there's no question that he's among the most elite receivers in the league.
The Giants are thinking long-term, though, and depending on what kind of season Nicks has in 2013, the price to keep him may be too high. The fact is that the Giants have several highly paid players taking up a lot of cap room. Aside from the $20 million that Manning is due to make in 2014, there are also several other players with high-cap numbers like Antrel Rolle, Chris Snee and Mathias Kiwanuka. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as all of these players are key to the Giants' success, and the team is mostly devoid of what anyone would consider to be bad contracts. The fact of the matter is that the Cruz contract negotiations were just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what to expect in the next few years.
Things get even more complicated for the Giants if you look further down the road. Jason Pierre-Paul is up for a new contract in 2015, and he'll most likely be due for a big payday as well, depending on how the next two seasons play out. The Cruz contract solved one problem, but it may have ultimately made Jerry Reese's job a little more difficult in the next few years. There's no question that it will ultimately affect the way the Giants approach the next couple of offseasons in regards to re-signing players and what they'll be able to afford with limited cap space. But the Giants aren't the first team to run into these kinds of problems, and they certainly won't be the last.
Ultimately, the future of the team will be shaped by the decisions that are made over the next few years.