John Clayton on the Cruz contract

May, 13, 2013
5/13/13
10:20
AM ET
Saw this item in John Clayton's mailbag this morning:
Q: Is Victor Cruz going to accept the long-term contract the Giants are offering him? I think $7 million with a lot of guaranteed money is plenty for a slot receiver, and he also is getting a bunch from endorsements. Still, I'm worried.

Andrew in New York

A: You should be worried. Tom Coughlin is worried. It's hard for a slot receiver to make more than $8 million a year. Cruz wants more. That's negotiating. I can't see the Giants going above $8 million, particularly knowing they might have to pay more to Hakeem Nicks if Nicks shows he's healthy. I think it would be good business if Cruz compromises, comes closer to the Giants' number, and then takes a deal that will leave him in position to get those endorsements. I have no problem with a player asking for the most money he can make. In this market, though, I worry what happens to the player if he lets a decent deal slip by and the money goes to another player.

I think that last point is the key one, when it comes to Cruz deciding what to do here. It's not a favorable market for players right now, and Cruz needs to keep that in mind. To this point, nothing has happened to force him to move in the Giants' direction in these negotiations, and Cruz has lost nothing by waiting to see if something would. If, for example, Nicks has a recurrence of the leg injury he suffered in minicamp last year, that could help Cruz's leverage. Not that he's rooting for Nicks to get hurt, of course, but the point is that he still hasn't had to give anything up in exchange for waiting for some unforeseen event that would help his leverage.

Should we get to next month's mandatory minicamp with this still not resolved, Cruz will have a choice to make. He could skip the minicamp and begin to get the team worried about what happens if he holds out of training camp or even part of the season. The Giants aren't a team that tends to blink in these kinds of situations, but again, something could happen to change their minds. Cruz's problem, however, comes if he overplays his hand and the team discovers it can actually live without him -- i.e., the Giants' assertion that slot receivers are replaceable when Eli Manning is your quarterback gets proven right while Cruz sits home.

So I think John's right about what Cruz is doing and ultimately ought to do. I agree that Cruz is within his rights to try to cash in the two brilliant seasons he just had for as much money as he can get. He can't be sure his value will ever be as high again as it is right now. But I also think he'd be wise to understand the reality of where the market is for NFL players in 2013 and to learn from the lesson of Wes Welker. Assuming nothing happens between now and training camp to strengthen his case -- and assuming the Giant really are offering what's been reported -- Cruz probably has to end up being the one to make the first concession that ultimately gets the deal done.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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