New York Giants: Why Big Blue Needs to Focus on Keeping Both Nicks, Cruz

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IFebruary 4, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 09:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants celebrates his touchdown with teammate  Hakeem Nicks #88 on December 9, 2012 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

With the 2012 season officially over, the offseason can officially begin for all 32 teams.

Heading into free agency, the biggest name the New York Giants have had gaining attention is Victor Cruz.

The popular wide receiver is a restricted free agent, but most people expect him to stay with the Giants and get a contract extension.

However, Giants owner John Mara is not so willing to hand over a blank check to Cruz and he has a limit on what is a fair offer to the Paterson, N.J., native.

In fact, Adam Schefter of ESPN  has reported that the team is putting more priority on re-signing Hakeem Nicks.

Nicks has one year left on the contract he originally signed when he was drafted as a rookie back in 2009 and the Giants want to keep their No. 1 receiver long-term.

The 25-year-old battled injuries during 2012, suffering a broken foot during the summer and battled a nagging knee injury that held Nicks to just 13 games.

Despite the injury, Nicks is such a lethal weapon for the Giants offense when he stays healthy, which is why the Giants want to lock him up long-term.

Since the news broke of the Giants viewing Nicks as a priority, many people have debated about who the Giants should make their priority in Nicks or Cruz.

Personally, I think the Giants need to make both receivers a priority and look to sign both of them this offseason.

The reason I say that is when both guys are on the field and healthy, it's almost impossible for opposing defenses to stop them.

Go back to the 2011 playoffs and look how both Nicks and Cruz performed.

Both guys were having 100-plus-yard games and when defenders tried to double and triple-team one receiver, the other was left with one-on-one coverage and would burn them.

And the result? The Giants won Super Bowl XLVI. Nicks and Cruz had a major hand in the team winning that championship a year ago.

In 2012, it was obvious that Nicks played the whole season hurt, and it had a major effect on Cruz, as he would be the primary focus of defensive backs to stop down the field.

Because Mario Manningham left and Rueben Randle was still in development, Eli Manning never really had a solid second option after Cruz if Nicks didn't play or wasn't completely healthy.

The Giants are hoping that Randle will develop into what Manningham or Steve Smith once was for the Giants, but Cruz and Nicks are on a different level of importance level for the team.

Look at the Atlanta Falcons and how explosive their offense was with both Roddy White and Julio Jones; the offense became more elite with the addition of Jones in the draft two years ago.

And you can even look at the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens with Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. Having those type of receivers make an offense that more dynamic, which is exactly what Cruz and Nicks do for the Giants.

Before Cruz made a name for himself in 2011, Nicks was getting to the point of an established No. 1 wide receiver for the Giants, but once Cruz got there, his big-play ability made the Giants into an explosive offense that can go deep and score six points at any time.

What Giants GM Jerry Reese needs to sit down with both guys in the spring, and work out deals for the two.

I know Cruz has been very patient and has handled the contract situation well in the media, and he does deserve to get paid.

I don't think the Giants will simply hand over a blank check to Cruz, but they know they can't afford to lose him and break up one of the best 1-2 punches in the NFL.

The Giants have to work on getting under the salary cap, but bringing both of their top receivers has become a huge priority before 2013.

In the end though, I still think Reese finds a way to keep both Nicks and Cruz because he knows how important they are to the offense and to the success of Manning.