The Cleveland Browns should pass on signing free agent Victor Cruz
Should the Cleveland Browns sign recently cut Victor Cruz? Signing Cruz would mean asking him to play a new role in the rebuilding Browns. Is he up for it?
The Cleveland Browns desperately need good wide receivers. Unfortunately, Victor Cruz does not fit what the Browns need during their rebuild.
Victor Cruz made his name by performing well in the 2010 preseason. He made the New York Giants roster as an undrafted free agent because of that preseason performance. However, he did not make an impact until the 2011-2013 seasons.
In 2014, Cruz tore his patellar tendon, missing all but six games. In 2015, a calf injury cost him the entire season. When he was finally healthy in 2016, he was already replaced by up and coming receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. Owed 7.5 million for 2017, it is no surprise to see Victor Cruz on the wrong end of the axe.
Does it make sense for the Browns to sign Victor Cruz? Simply put, no. It does not make sense for the Browns to sign Victor Cruz.
Cruz is entering his seventh NFL season. At 30 years old, Cruz is not a long-term option at wide receiver. He is too old to be considered a building block for the future. The only role left would be that of a bridge player to help mentor rookies and young veterans into solid NFL players.
NFL wide receiver rooms have a variety of NFL players. There is the number one receiver typified by the ability to make big plays. This role is currently held by Terrelle Pryor. The second receiver is more of an option who can win against single coverage and take heat off the number one. This role is currently held by Corey Coleman, although one would hope these roles would be reversed soon.
The third receiver on the roster is usually reserved for a slot receiver. This receiver should be able to get open over the middle with quickness and route running. This spot is currently held by Andrew Hawkins.
The fourth receiver is generally a possession receiver who is reliable and can move the chains. This position belonged to Ricardo Louis. This leaves two roster spots for developmental players. Those spots were held by Rashard Higgins and Jordan Payton. Both players look to be possession receivers who could hold down the fourth spot.
So where does Cruz fit into this mix? If the Browns were to sign Cruz, he would be viewed as third receiver/slot receiver. The Browns would have to determine that Cruz would provide a possible upgrade over Andrew Hawkins.
If Cruz could stay healthy (and that is a big “if”), it would be a toss-up as to who would be the better player on the field. Cruz is no longer the same player he was in 2011-2013. Injuries have taken its toll. Hawkins is a good player but has never risen to the level of Cruz in Cruz’s heyday.
But it is the off-field contributions that make the difference. Hawkins has served as a mentor and coach (much like Josh McCown in the QB room) to the young group of wide receivers. He has embraced that role and fulfills it well. It is unknown, at this point in his career, if Victor Cruz is ready to embrace the older bridge veteran role to stay on an NFL roster.
Chances are he will not have to. Some team will take a flyer on a once great aging veteran for the league minimum. If it is the Browns, then Cruz will need to embrace roles much bigger than simply running routes and catching the ball to fill Andrew Hawkins‘ shoes.
The Browns do not need to mess with a good thing in Andrew Hawkins. The Browns should pass on Victor Cruz.