Victor Cruz, Bears Agree to 1-Year Contract After 7 Seasons with Giants

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2017

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 09:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants runs a pass route during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 9, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Giants 23-16.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Once considered among the best slot receivers in the NFL, Victor Cruz will look to revive his career with the Chicago Bears after agreeing to terms on a one-year deal Thursday, the Bears announced

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport first reported the news. 

The New York Giants released Cruz on Feb. 13 after he spent seven years with the team. He shared his reaction to the move with Uninterrupted:

Art Stapleton of the Record reported the deal was worth $2 million in base salary, with another $2 million in incentives. 

The 30-year-old rose relatively quickly from obscurity at the beginning of his NFL career. An undrafted free agent who joined the Giants in 2010, he caught 168 passes for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns between 2011 and 2012.

But as quickly as Cruz ascended, he fell back to earth with equal speed. Pro Football Focus showed how he steadily declined with each year after his Pro Bowl campaign in 2012:

ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan provided another sobering statistic about Cruz's overall production in the Big Apple:

Injuries hastened the decline. Cruz played six games in 2014 before suffering a season-ending patellar injury. He then missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing calf surgery.

In July 2016, Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon wrote Cruz's patellar injury was particularly foreboding:

A study published in June by the American Journal of Sports Medicine, cataloging postoperative outcomes of orthopaedic procedures in NFL players, found only 50 percent of players returned after having surgery on torn patellar tendons. That's particularly daunting considering that 79.4 percent of players returned to play after orthopaedic procedures in general, which makes patellar tendon repair an outlier. 

In fact, per that study, those recovering from patellar tendon surgery fared the worst "with respect to the return-to-play rate, career length after surgery, games played, and performance at one year and two-to-three years after surgery."

Gagnon's skepticism proved justified. Cruz caught 39 passes for 586 yards and a touchdown. Pro Football Focus graded him 99th (53.9) out of 115 qualified receivers, while Football Outsiders ranked him 75th in DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement).

At this point in his career, it's unlikely Cruz will ever be a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver again. He turns 31 in November, and the torn patellar paints further doubt on his long-term value.

Cruz will likely be an insurance policy for the Bears. Cameron Meredith played unexpectedly well in 2016, but beyond him, Chicago's receiving corps has a few question marks.

Kevin White has appeared in four games since the team selected him with the seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft, and a shoulder injury limited Markus Wheaton to three games a year ago. The combination of Kendall Wright and Rueben Randle arrived after underwhelming—to varying degrees—stints with their previous teams.

And that's to say nothing of the fact either Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky will be the Bears' starting quarterback.

Cruz—even with his injury history—brings some level of stability to what is shaping up to be an unpredictable offense in 2017.