Victor Cruz and the New York Giants have reached agreement after one of the longest, most publicized contract negotiations in NFL history.
Cruz signed a five-year extension worth $43 million on Monday on top of the one-year tender the Pro Bowl wide receiver has already signed, sources told FOX Sports. In all, the contract is a six-year deal worth $45.879 million and includes $15.6 million guaranteed. The Giants have officially confirmed Cruz’s signing, but not the numbers on the deal.
On a conference call with reporters, Cruz said he never considered playing this year under the $2.879-million restricted-free-agent tender because he knew he wouldn’t be able to handle the repeat questions about being an unrestricted free agent next spring.
"I wanted to have some security and positivity going into the season with the comfort of a long-term deal," he said, adding: "I just felt like it was time. . . . I’m done with the back and forth. What’s on the table is a really good deal. I’m really excited about it and it’s going to provide security for my family for a very long time. So I felt like today was the day."
The average of $8.6 million per season in "new" money isn’t quite the double digits Cruz was hoping to get from the Giants, but it’s more than $2 million more per year than Wes Welker and Danny Amendola received to set what was the top of the market for slot receivers this offseason.
The Seattle Seahawks gave Percy Harvin more than $11 million per year, though Harvin’s value is inflated because of what he’s able to do as a returner and a rushing threat.
The $12 million per season the Miami Dolphins gave Mike Wallace is still the most luractive deal for a wide receiver this year, which indicates the importance of having an outside threat who can stretch a defense. Cruz had 168 catches for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns over the past two regular seasons, but the outside presence is still what gets a receiver a top-of-the-market deal these days.
The Giants have one of their own they’ll need to re-sign in Hakeem Nicks, who is a free agent at the end of this season. The former first-round pick is slated to earn $2.725 million in base salary in 2013 and could set himself up for a longer deal if he proves he can stay healthy and return to the form he displayed in 2010 and 2011, when he caught a combined 155 passes for 2,244 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Cruz, meanwhile, will be relieved to know he doesn’t have to answer any more contract questions, something that has been quite frequent for him since late in the 2011 season. After he caught a touchdown in Super Bowl XLVI, Cruz began to field questions about his worth. He repeatedly said he deserved a bigger deal but vowed he wouldn’t be a distraction last season — and he wasn’t.
But this offseason, Cruz went silent and also declined to show up for voluntary workouts and the team’s minicamp. It wasn’t mandatory for Cruz, a restricted free agent, to show up for the minicamp because he hadn’t yet signed his tender. He did just that one day after the minicamp ended, with a long-term deal still in the works. The sides came together on an agreement quickly thereafter, with Cruz realizing the deal on the table was fair.
The Giants initially offered in the range of $6.5 million per season last year, a source said. Cruz wound up getting a little more, though the Giants locked him up through the age of 32, which is a win for them.
Cruz, who said he received no phone calls from other teams when he was a restricted free agent, said he’ll now try to convince Nicks to join him in signing a long-term deal.
"I’m definitely going to put the pressure on him to come back and see if he wants to play with me for the long haul," Cruz said. "We’ll see if we can do this together for a couple more years."
Mike Garafolo and Peter Schrager contributed to this report.