What Does Victor Cruz Really Mean to the New York Giants Offense?

Benjamin J. Block@BenjaminBlock21Correspondent IINovember 28, 2016

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 21:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants celebrates after he 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

How much do the New York Giants value wide receiver Victor Cruz?

Apparently a lot. 

According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Giants team sources, Cruz and Big Blue will finalize a long-term contract before training camp commences July 26. Cruz is rumored to be looking for something between $9 and $11 million a year, according to Dave Hutchinson of the Star-Ledger—all thanks to the benchmark Mike Wallace set after inking a five-year, $60 million contract with the Miami Dolphins this offseason.

While Giants brass and No. 80 work out the language of the impending contract, those directly invested in his success and those who are just fans are both asking the the same question these days.

What does Cruz really mean to this offense?

Dollar figures aside, the 26-year-old Cruz is crucial to the Giants offense and their subsequent success. It's a no-brainer that Cruz is a linchpin in the schemes drawn up by offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, as he has lead Big Blue in catches, yards and touchdowns the last two seasons.

His value going forward, however, will be carefully dissected. Especially since he's expected to see top-receiver money come his way. 

Despite leading the team in all major receiving categories for two straight seasons, his ability to handle No. 1 receiver-type scrutiny in 2012 came under question as a result of an unhealthy Hakeem Nicks.

Nicks caught just 53 balls last year—his lowest number of receptions since his rookie season in 2009 (47), and Cruz was exposed as a slot receiver who wasn't as effective without his big-play wideout drawing attention.

2012 highlighted Cruz's kryptonite at times—the absence of a healthy and strong Nicks.

Cruz fans need not worry too much about his impact, as he is the only player in Giants history with at least 80 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in a season—a feat he's accomplished twice already.

Anytime you're the only player to achieve something in an organization as rich in history as the Giants, you are a significant part of the team and the future.

In order to truly comprehend Cruz's value, try to pretend that it's the year 2020 and someone asks you what Cruz really meant to the Giants offense seven or so years ago.

The answer: Even by himself he was a dominant member of Big Blue's offense (see his individual stats), but he was nearly unstoppable when he had a healthy Nicks as a receiving threat on the outside.

That will ultimately sum up what Cruz means to the Giants offense.