Carolina Panthers: Victor Cruz May Not Be the Right Option

The Carolina Panthers may be in need of a veteran wide receiver ,but they may want to avoid signing the declining Victor Cruz.

The Carolina Panthers are sitting pretty under the salary cap as the 2017 offseason lies ahead. The team has more than $50 million dollars to spend, but doesn’t have any major moves planned in the free agency market. While the team may use those funds to shore up important players on their roster, it will be interesting to see if the leadership brings in any outside options. Victor Cruz has come up in conversations as a potential addition to the roster. However, the Panthers should decide against bringing Cruz to the roster at this time.

If there’s one area in which the Panthers have depth, it’s at the wide receiver position. Even though Cam Newton didn’t have a strong year passing, there isn’t a lack of talent available once he has the opportunity to throw the ball. David Newton of ESPN presented a scenario in which Cruz would add veteran leadership and experience as a slot receiver to the Panthers core. NFL Spin Zone’s Justin Coccia surmised the same. This is a valid suggestion, but one must wonder if it is worth the hefty price tag that Cruz is going to demand.

Cruz was released earlier this month after seven years with the New York Giants. He was a major part of that team’s strong play in recent years, but he hasn’t been the same type of player since a knee injury in 2014 hampered his performance. Since that year his production has dropped off.

From 2011-13, Cruz earned nearly 1,000 yards each season. In 2014 he played in only six games and missed all of 2015. In 2016, he brought in only 586 yards and one touchdown for the Eli Manning-led Giants offense. When reviewing that type of change in productivity, it’s seems to be in the Panthers’ best interests to avoid signing him to a deal.

Cruz has veteran experience that isn’t available on the Panthers’ current roster. After two seasons, Kelvin Benjamin may not be ready to fulfill that role and the same could be said for Devin Funchess. While they are both important parts of the offense, neither has the long-term play, and championship success that Cruz brings to the table. With Ted Ginn Jr. a free agent, there’s a large question mark as to whether or not he would return at this point in time. Ginn Jr has long been the speed option used to stretch defenses and Cruz would not be able to fill that void.

Veteran leadership is a valuable commodity for any sports team. These players help alleviate pressure on younger teammates and make big plays when the time is right. However, that leadership may not be worth the large contract number that Cruz could bring.

Even though he and general manager Dave Gettleman have a history together as part of the Giants, the Panthers should be weary of adding him to their group of wide receivers. Instead, the organization should be prepared to lean on the current pieces in place and push them for their continued development at this point in their careers.

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