Restricted free agent Victor Cruz signed his one-year, first-round tender from the Giants Friday, according to a source. And though the $2.879-million deal is a check-down pass and not the deep route that both sides are hoping to connect on, it ensures that the salsa will be staying in town for at least 2013.
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Cruz and the Giants will continue to work on a long-term contract, a multiyear package that could ultimately pay Cruz somewhere between $8 million and $10 million per year.
Cruz's signing of the tender may have been a blink in negotiations as a one-day window for the Giants to reduce the tender offer approached. On Monday, the Giants could have slashed the $2.879-million to $630,000. Though it was unlikely the Giants would have tarnished their relationship with Cruz by doing so, Cruz apparently felt no need to test them.
On the other hand, signing the tender by no means guarantees that Cruz will report for the start of training camp in late July. He still might hold out if a long-term contract is not reached by then. Because he is under contract, however, the Giants could fine him $30,000 for each day he misses. Cruz did not attend the voluntary portions of the offseason program, nor was he at this week's mandatory minicamp. The Giants could not fine him for that, however, since he was technically not under contract.
The Giants have used intermediate steps like these toward long-term deals in the past. In recent years, they placed a franchise tag on both Brandon Jacobs and Steve Weatherford before agreeing to longer deals within weeks.
If the Giants do not sign Cruz or Hakeem Nicks to long-term deals by the end of the 2013 season, both are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. The Giants would have the option of placing a franchise tag on one of them.
In only two years as a key player for the Giants, Cruz has caught 168 passes for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns and become one of the team's most popular players. He burst onto the scene as a last-option replacement for Steve Smith when other, more experienced receivers were injured early in the 2011 season and finished that year by catching a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl XLVI win over the Patriots. In 2012, with Nicks playing hurt for most of the year, Cruz emerged as the Giants' main offensive weapon and was selected to play in his first Pro Bowl.
Cruz is the only player in Giants history to have at least 80 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards and nine TDs in a season. And he's done it twice.
For those two seasons, Cruz was one of the biggest values in the NFL. His base salary in 2011 was $450,000; in 2012, it was $540,000. Those figures were based on his humble beginnings in pro football and not the impact he quickly made.
Cruz was an undrafted free agent from UMass who burst onto the national scene when he caught three touchdown passes against the Jets in the preseason opener in 2010. He hurt his hamstring early in that regular season and was placed on injured reserve.