Victor Cruz has finally been paaaid. And while his final financial worth doesn’t match what he was originally seeking oh so long ago when this contract squabbling began (a reported $10-11 million annually), the Giants receiver is still doing just fine for himself, thanks, and he’s making a few more dollars than you and I.
Jay Glazer was the first to report that an agreement between Cruz and the Giants has finally been reached on a new five-year contract which will pay the vertical threat $43 million. That functions as an extension added to the one-year tender he had already signed, meaning in total the Giants have committed to Cruz for six years at a price of $45.879 million, $15.6 million is guaranteed.
Cruz is now the league’s 17th highest paid receiver, according to Rotoworld. So if you’re keeping score at home, this is another victory for owners who profit from players breaking themselves. But hey, concussions and stuff.
The “new” money (the five-year contract) will pay Cruz an average of $8.6 annually, which is below market value for a receiver of Cruz’s caliber set to enter his age 26 season. Throughout this process there was pain and angst, as there is during most negotiating sessions in which mothers are insulted, and action is inevitably prompted by a deadline (training camps begin to open in 17 days). Remember that time Jerry Reese said he wasn’t sure if Cruz would be around on opening day? haha what a character.
Cruz’s new contract was mostly held up by perspective (again, a common occurrence in negotiations involving all the money). He quite rightfully sees himself as an emerging young receiver who has 2,628 receiving yards over just two seasons as a starter, with 19 touchdowns. But the Giants’ brass quite rightfully was cautious, as they wanted to know which Cruz they’re getting this year and beyond, and the 2011 Cruz was vastly different from the 2012 Cruz. He experienced several significant statistical drops from Year 1 to Year 2, including overall yardage (1,536 to 1,092), average yards per catch (18.7 to 12.7), and catches of 20 yards or more (25 to only 12).
There was also Cruz’s lack of leverage, which primarily lied in his status as a restricted free agent, but there was also the matter of New York’s depth at his position. Hakeem Nicks is still a fine option when healthy, and just a year ago Reuben Randle was selected in the second round. There’s only one way in which determining an employee’s value in the NFL is similar to how the average peon’s raise is calculated: how easily can you be replaced?
For Cruz, the answer is not that easily, especially with his unique skillset as a slot receiver. But the presence of Nicks and Randle still kept his price down somewhat. Earlier this offseason Dwayne Bowe received the same in guaranteed money, but more in overall base salary with a contract worth $56 million ($11.2 annually). The difference was the anchor applied by Cruz’s RFA status, as Bowe was set to become an unrestricted free agent. Also, in Kansas City there’s much less reliable depth.
Maybe a more comparable example is the contract Vincent Jackson received last spring. The Bucs signed Jackson to a five-year contract worth $55 million last March with $26 million guaranteed, even though he’s three years older than Cruz (he’s 30 now) and therefore approaching middle age for a wide receiver. That contract has worked out just fine through one year (he had 1,384 receiving yards in 2012), but Jackson’s best year is still firmly behind Cruz’s 2011 season.
One last comparison to show how team friendly Cruz”s deal is, and this may actually be the most comparable comparable: Percy Harvin. Yes, his value is boosted by more versatility, and his ability as a returner. Still, at nearly the same age (Harvin is 25), he received $2.9 million more in average annual base salary, and most importantly, $11.9 million more in guaranteed money.
OK I lied, let’s do one more real quick. Mike Wallace is the same age as Cruz, he’s never logged a +1,500 yard season, and he had only 838 yards in a contract year. Yet the Dolphins were more than eager to give him $60 million over five years, $30 million of which is guaranteed.
Man, being an RFA sucks.