While most figure that restricted free agent Victor Cruz will be with the Giants when the season starts, not everyone is a believer.
"I don't assume anything," general manager Jerry Reese said Thursday. "We'll see. I can tell you this, when we get ready to play and the season starts, we'll have some good players out there. I'm not sure if Victor will be there or not."
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Cruz may not have many options. As a restricted free agent, if he does not receive an offer from another team by this afternoon, he'll have little to no leverage against the Giants. The team already has offered him a one-year, first-round tender that would pay him $2.879 million in 2013, but there also have been talks between the two sides toward a long-term deal. If negotiations grow contentious, it could nudge Cruz toward the open market next offseason.
Reese seemed fine with that, holding a strong line on the public aspect of the negotiations.
"If Victor is not here, we have other receivers," he said. "One player doesn't make your team, and if Victor's not here, there are other receivers."
If another team does make Cruz an offer, the Giants would have to decide whether to match it or take a first-round pick in exchange for Cruz. It's been 10 years since any restricted free agent was signed by another team for a first-round pick, and it is not expected to happen with Cruz.
Cruz, a Pro Bowl receiver who caught 86 passes for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, has not spoken publicly about his contract situation since the end of the 2012 season. He has switched agents this offseason. And while he is not participating in the first week of voluntary offseason training at the team's facility, he did take part in a three-day unofficial passing camp at Duke with teammates Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks last week. That would seem to indicate Cruz's desire to remain a Giant.
"I hope so," Manning said. "I hope he wants to be here."
When he actually arrives, though, remains a question.
"I have a feeling I'll see Victor here when the [long-term] contract is done," Manning said. "That's my gut feeling . . . I think that's the goal."
If that goal is not reached, Cruz may be forced to unhappily sign his one-year tender. It could also result in a longer holdout that might reach into training camp and even the regular season, although if Cruz sits out the 2013 season in an extreme case, he still would be a restricted free agent next offseason.
Manning said he understands why Cruz is not at this week's workouts, but he also knows the value a receiver such as Cruz has to him and the team's offense.
"I think they want him back," Manning said of the Giants' intentions. "It's just a matter of finding that line of the worth and dealing with the salary cap and all those issues to get him back at a good price. Hopefully all of that gets worked out sooner than later so he can get here and we can continue to work and get better."
Unlike the millions of dollars that undoubtedly are being haggled over by the two sides, though, nothing is guaranteed.
"Time will tell," Reese said. "The Victor Cruz thing, it'll play out, and wherever it goes, it'll go there."