The problem is going to be keeping that duo together. With Cruz trying to work out an extension rather than play under his restricted free agent tender, and Nicks headed into the last year of his rookie deal, the G-men may be forced to make some difficult choices.
Back in February, it appeared that the Giants were making locking up Nicks their top priority. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, league sources informed him that the Giants were most interested in working out an extension for the 25-year-old Nicks.
The Giants then assigned a one-year, restricted free agent tender of $2.8 million to Cruz, and team owner John Mara indicated to Schefter at the time that the asking price from Cruz's camp was just too high.
"We certainly want him back, but like with any player, there's a limit to where we're going to go. He's been a terrific player for us, he's a fan favorite, he does a lot for our franchise, but there is a limit."
Now, it looks like the script has flipped. The Giants have continued to discuss an extension for Cruz, but talks with Nicks have appeared to hit something of a snag. In fact, sources told Chris Wesseling of NFL.com that Nicks is perfectly content playing out the last year of his contract before potentially hitting the open market.
Neither player was present at the Giants' recent OTAs. According to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, head coach Tom Coughlin didn't seem overly concerned about Cruz's absence, but sounded none too happy about Nicks not being there:
"I don't know. He should be here. I expect everybody here. Trying to get our team better here." "He would have some kind of [physical] limitations I am sure right away," Coughlin added. "But that is not the reason [for his absence]."
The physical limitations that Coughlin refers to stem from the knee and foot injuries that cost Nicks three games last year and limited him in several others. For the first time since the 2009 season, Nicks failed to top 1,000 yards receiving.
That leaves the Giants with an interesting conundrum. Does the team lock up Cruz now, and then wait to see if Nicks returns to full health before breaking the bank for him?
Based strictly off of their production over the past two seasons, that would certainly seem to be the right move.
Granted, if you compare Nicks' 2010-2011 seasons (when he was more-or-less healthy) to Cruz's last two years the numbers are a lot closer, but even in that case the stats still lean towards Cruz.
Now, there are those that would say that Cruz's productivity is based partly off Nicks' presence on the field, that Cruz is just a more talented version of Steve Smith, who had a big season playing in the slot for New York in 2008 only to quickly fade into obscurity.
However, Cruz is much more than "just" a slot receiver, and the simple fact is that Victor Cruz has been one of the most productive wideouts in the National Football League over the past couple of years.
That includes when Nicks was sidelined for three games last year. Over that three-game stretch, Cruz reeled in 20 passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns. That's pretty good production from a team's top wideout, which Cruz served as in those games.
At the end of the day, the New York Giants' front office has a reputation for being pretty shrewd, and if they've decided that Cruz, and not Nicks, should be the top priority, then they are being so again.
That's absolutely no knock Hakeem Nicks. He's a very talented young wide receiver. However, he's also a very talented young receiver who has yet to play 16 games in a season.
Cruz has done so in each of the past two years.
Yes, it's something of a calculated risk. If Nicks does return to form this season, then he's going to command a pretty penny, and comments to the contrary aside, he may feel a bit slighted if the Giants let him play out the final year of his contract.
With that said, though, general manager Jerry Reese would have an ace up his sleeve in the form of the franchise tag, which Reese could theoretically use to keep Nicks in the fold.
Sure, this all depends on the Giants and Cruz bridging the gap between the compensation that Cruz wants and what Big Blue is willing to play. However, it appears that some progress has been made in that regard, at least more so than with an extension for Nicks.
If that's the case, then get it done. One worry at a time. Cross each bridge as you get to it. Insert tired cliche here.
Get Victor Cruz squared away, and then, assuming that Hakeem Nicks returns to form in 2013, turn attention to him.
Like I said, one worry at a time.
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