The NFL can be a tough business and when you’re an aging player, it can be cruel sometimes. On Monday, the New York Giants made one of their first roster moves preparing for the 2017 season as they have released their long-time wide receiver, Victor Cruz.
The 30-year-old wide receiver was able to bounce back and play in the 2016 season, hauling in 39 catches for 586 yards and a touchdown, his first action since his the 2014 season after tearing his patellar tendon in his knee and undergoing season-ending knee surgery.
With Cruz’s release, the Giants save about $7.5 million in salary cap space; he was due $6.4 million for the 2017 season and $7.4 million for the 2018 season as part of the five-year, $43 million deal he signed in the summer of 2013; a time when he was considered an elite and Pro Bowl wide receiver in the NFL.
At the time of his contract, the Giants had to pick who they wanted to keep long-term between him and Hakeem Nicks and the Giants kept Cruz; and at the time, it seemed like the right move.
But not long after Cruz signed that deal, the injuries started to kick in. He missed the final few games in 2013 after needing to undergo knee surgery. Then the tear in Philadelphia and the image we all remember of Cruz, leaving that game on a cart and knowing that his season was over.
He was supposed to return for the 2015 season, but a nagging calf injury kept him off the field and eventually, he needed to undergo season-ending surgery on the calf and another season was lost for Cruz. By this time, Odell Beckham Jr. had already emerged as the franchise star and clear number one wide receiver for the Giants and Cruz had almost become an afterthought from the two-year absence.
He did return in 2016, but it wasn’t the same Victor Cruz everyone remembered in 2011 and 2012, dominating on the field and putting up over 1,000-yard seasons. He showed moments where he could still produce on the field and help the Giants, but the speed he once had was diminished and his big-play ability wasn’t the same.
While he was still one of the most popular players on the team, popularity can only get you so far and it doesn’t warrant being paid $6.4 million a season when you aren’t putting up that kind of production. And for Cruz. he wasn’t the same player that the Giants gave that five-year deal to.
Unfortunately, Cruz’s release was not only expected but a roster move that had to be done. The Giants have re-emerged as a playoff contender in the NFC and with Cruz’s savings, they can make necessary moves to add to their deep roster; maybe moves that can get them back to another Super Bowl.
Victor Cruz has said that he wants to play in the NFL in 2017, in which if he does, it won’t be with the only team he’s known and played for in his career. But in the business of the NFL, Cruz’s release was one we’ve seen before in the past and won’t be the last popular player to get cut with similar circumstances.