That was until Victor Cruz decided he wanted to cash in on his success during the Giants’ 2011 campaign en route to a historic Super Bowl victory.
On Thursday, Cruz made an appearance on NBC’s PFT Live and did not hesitate to answer when questioned about his current contract situation.
I think I was paid, you know, relative to where I came in this year and, you know, I came in as a free agent so that’s the salary I was on, so I don’t feel like I was underpaid...I mean, I feel like after my performance this year, you know, I feel like I deserve to be paid more money at this point. But that’s something I’ll let my agents and those people take care of and I’ll just go out there and play the game.
At first glance, it’s hard to argue with the former undrafted pickup from the University of Massachusetts. He caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns, easily making himself the Giants’ most lethal weapon on offense.
But for a player who came out in 2010 undrafted and was not expected to have as big a year as he had for the Giants in 2011, Big Blue must be hard-pressed to pull the trigger on an upgrade to Cruz’s current contract—a lowly $490,000 in 2012 to be exact.
Despite his stellar season that unquestionably helped the Giants acquire their fourth Super Bowl championship, Cruz’s very sudden burst into the NFL’s elite should raise some questions.
Cruz missed the final 13 games of the 2010 season with a hamstring injury, but did show impressive endurance by playing in all 16 games this past season.
The Giants receiver played an integral part in the offense and his performance coincided with quarterback Eli Manning’s best season to date.
As history shows, however, the wide receiver position is not opposed to producing one-hit wonders. Just last season, Mario Manningham was the superb No. 2 target in the Giants offense with 60 catches for 944 yards and nine touchdowns. This season, Manningham had just 39 catches for 523 yards and four touchdowns during an injury-riddled 2011 campaign.
The last thing the Giants want is to fork money over to Cruz as a gift for his outstanding performance in 2011, only to get burned when he regresses into the prospect he was expected to be coming out of college—or worse.
The likeliness of that happening is slim, especially with Manning throwing him the football and Hakeem Nicks playing at the other receiver position, but it is something to be wary of. That is particularly so with numerous other Giants looking to get paid this offseason who have put the years in to earn it, such as Osi Umenyiora, Corey Webster and Manningham, the Super Bowl hero who's a free agent.
With so much more on the plate for the Giants this offseason, Cruz must put his financial concerns behind him for one more season and prove he is not just another flash in the pan. And when he does, the Giants should have no trouble opening up the checkbook to their proven salsa-dancing superstar.