Nicks or Cruz? Who do the Giants Sign First?
The New York Giants enjoy a luxury not many teams can claim to have. They have 2 true difference makers at wide receiver in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Both could be number 1 options on different teams and both are up for some form of free agency this offseason. Cruz is a restricted free agent, which means that the Giants can match any offer he gets from another team before he signs with another club. Nicks is an unrestricted free agent, meaning he is free to sign with any club he wants without any interference from the Giants, assuming he wants to leave of course.
If Nicks does not want to leave New York he could resign with the team. The question though for the Giants is which receiver do you make the priority? The answer depends on multiple factors:
Free agent status
The fact that Cruz is a restricted free agent means he has immensely less leverage than Nicks has at his disposal. Merely agreeing to a deal with another team does not guarantee Cruz’s departure from New York. The Giants would then have to agree to let Cruz walk by not matching the offer, and as compensation the Giants could even receive draft picks in return if the offer is high enough, perhaps scaring off other teams even more. Nicks does not need to worry about all those angles in his time during free agency. If he decided he wanted to move on from his time in New York that would be the end of it, perhaps making him the higher priority of the two receivers.
This category is included solely because of Nicks and his injury concerns. After 4 seasons he has yet to play in all 16 games during the season. This past year injuries prevented him from practicing regularly, kept him out of 3 games entirely, and robbed him of most of his effectiveness. 2010 and 2011 saw Nicks combine for over 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns, but while battling various injuries in 2012 he only accounted for 692 yards and 3 touchdowns. The fact remains that Nicks is still capable of being the bigger playmaker when fully healthy as the combination of his size, speed, and strength make him a nightmare to guard.
While 2010 and 2011 were Nicks best years, Cruz has impressed in his only 2 seasons in the league as well. 2011 saw Cruz haul in 82 receptions (while Nicks has never topped 80 catches in a season) for 1,536 yards and 9 touchdowns. He followed up that campaign this season with 86 receptions for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. Despite the 4 more receptions and 1 more touchdown, Cruz’s yardage plummeted when compared with his rookie season as his YPC (yards per catch) went down from 18.7 to 12.7. This number could mean that defenses started to key in on Cruz more so then they did in 2011. Who knows how much teams will focus on him in 2013.
Taking into account all these factors it would seem that Hakeem Nicks, despite his injury concerns, is the higher priority to get under contract for the long term. Cruz is a very important piece to the Giant offense, but Nicks is the bigger threat in terms of big play ability and is potentially the main reason why Cruz has been so effective in his first two seasons. The Giants would be wise to sign both to new deals, but Nicks remains the more important receiver to sign first.
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photo © 2011 Kathy Vitulano , Flickr