New York Giants' Fate Lies in Contract Situations of Nicks and Cruz

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IMay 23, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 21:  Victor Cruz #80 is congratulated by teammate Hakeem Nicks #88 of the New York Giants after Cruz scored the game winning touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins on October 21, 2012 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The New York Giants defeated the Washington Redskins 27-23.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Eli Manning has led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl titles, but what type of quarterback would he be today without Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz?

Well, Nicks has 255 receptions for 3,726 yards and 27 touchdowns on 436 targets in 55 games played since 2009.

Cruz has 168 receptions for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns on 274 targets in 32 games since 2011. 

Cruz has 949 yards after the catch since his debut season with the G-Men and over the same time frame Nicks has amassed 567 yards after the catch. 

Over the last two seasons, the duo has accounted for 50.8 percent of Manning's passing yardage,  43.6 percent of his completions and 35.1 percent of his touchdown tosses. 

Safe to say, Nicks and Cruz are integral to the New York Giants offense and Manning's annual production. 

While some believe an elite quarterback doesn't necessarily depend on his pass-catching talent, the two established receiving stars are needed to make Manning's life much easier. 

But now, Cruz is in the midst of a contract dispute, and Nicks is entering the final year of his rookie deal. 

Like Cruz, Nicks has missed the first two OTA sessions, but unlike Cruz, Nicks' absences were not due to any contract disagreements with the team according to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports.

However, the Giants will have to make some important decisions this year regarding their top two wideouts. 

With Cruz holding out and Nicks' contract expiring at season's end, which receiver should be the Giants' top priority, and can they keep them both?

As the Cruz vs. Nicks debate rages on, here's a comparison of the two on a per-game basis since 2011:

Victor Cruz 5.25 .59 .61
Hakeem Nicks 4.60 .38 .55
Name Catches Per Game Since 2011 TDs Per Game Since 2011 Catches Per Target Since 2011

Some of Cruz's numbers may be inflated due to the fact that Nicks missed four games over the last two seasons, but the undrafted free-agent has clearly been a more efficient figure in the Giants offense. 

Also there's a notion that Nicks' presence goes beyond the quantifiable. He does play bigger than his 6'1'', 210-pound suggests, and he excels on the perimeter in a traditional No. 1 receiver role. 

Many believe outside wideouts who can outmuscle cornerbacks, win jump balls and consistently beat press coverage at the line are harder to find and more valuable, which thereby leads to the idea that Nicks should be New York's primary contractual concern. 

However, Cruz isn't an easy slot receiver to replace. 

Here's how he compares to the league's best slot guys over the last two years:

Name Yards Gained Per Route Run (from slot) Catches on Targets 20+ Yards Downfield Yards Per Catch
Percy Harvin 2.08 5 11.0
Randall Cobb 2.43 10 12.7
Wes Welker 2.44 12 12.2
Victor Cruz 2.82 21 15.6

The Giants realized Cruz was as fast down the field as he was laterally quick, and they have used him as a threatening vertical threat, especially as a rookie. 

Basically, it can be argued that it's just as difficult, if not harder, to find a receiver of Cruz's physical abilities who's capable of beating the defense underneath and over the top. 

In other words, he can make a strong argument at the negotiating table that he's not simply another slot receiver and therefore shouldn't be paid like one.

Cruz and Nicks will likely ask for between $8-10 million per season, and, frankly, the Giants should pay them both to keep Manning's favorite targets around as the quarterback enters his 10th professional season.

However, it's not inconceivable that New York is preparing itself and is willing to replace Nicks' production in the future with Rueben Randle and the recently re-signed Ramses Barden.