Yesterday Victor Cruz was a restricted free agent. Today he’s just restricted.
The deadline for any of the other 31 teams in the NFL to make an offer for Cruz came and went at midnight last night without so much as a salsa, meaning that the full rights to sign the wide receiver for the 2013 season revert back to the Giants. Cruz’ options – at least the sane, sensible options – are reduced to just a few.
He can sign his first-round tender offer from the Giants which will give him in essence a one-year, $2.879 million deal. That would make him a free agent next offseason (although the Giants would have the option to put a franchise tag on him, but with Hakeem Nicks also a free agent that seems unlikely).
He can continue to negotiate a long-term deal with the Giants, which seems as if it would benefit both sides.
There are other possibilities like trading him, signing and trading him, and Cruz refusing to play on a one-year tender deal. But those would seem to benefit neither side.
The next deadline for Cruz – a Cruzline? – is June 17. That’s when he’ll have to sign his tender offer or the Giants can rescind it and reduce it while still retaining exclusive rights to him.
That gives the two sides plenty of time to hammer out a long-term deal. Now that the open offer period is over anyway, the Giants are just bidding against themselves on any big contract with Cruz. As Eli Manning said this week, it’s likely 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."
It was a bit of a gamble for the Giants to stick Cruz out there even with a first-round tender. Co-owner Steve Tisch said earlier this spring that he was nervous about another team making Cruz an offer that the Giants could not match (or would have to match). But in reality it was a very small gamble -- one that at the very worst would have paid the Giants a first-round pick -- given that no RFA had been signed by another team for a first-round pricetag in a decade and Cruz was the only player in the NFL to receive a first-round tender offer.
The gamble, however slight, paid off.