New York Giants: Brian Hartline’s Contract Sets Tone for Victor Cruz Negotiations
The New York Giants would like to re-sign wide receiver Victor Cruz. Victor Cruz would like to remain with the New York Giants. Seems like an easy match, right? Well, so far, the two sides have not come close to an agreement because of financial differences, differences that might have become even bigger with Brian Hartline’s new contract with the Miami Dolphins.
Hartline, 26, who enjoyed a bit of a breakout year last season, inked a five-year, $30.775 million deal with $12.5 million of that guaranteed money. Hartline made his NFL debut in 2009, catching 31 passes for 506 yards. In 2010, he caught 43 balls for 615 yards and in 2011 he caught 35 passes for 549 yards before catching 74 passes last season for 1,083 yards. All told, Hartline has 183 career receptions for 2,753 yards and six touchdowns.
By comparison, Cruz has caught 168 passes for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns over the last two years. Now, the Giants must surpass what the Dolphins gave Hartline in order to keep him, even if there is a “hometown discount” included on Cruz’s end.
If Hartline is worth $12.5 million guaranteed then Cruz must be worth close to $20 million or more in guaranteed money over a similar five-year deal. Cruz would not be out of bounds asking for a five-year, $40 million deal. The questions is, with Hakeem Nicks quickly approaching his own free agency next season, can the Giants afford both of their star wide receivers or do they view Rueben Randle as a potential replacement for one or the other?
Cruz has become a favorite target of Eli Manning over the past seasons. Manning has targeted him 274 times over the last two seasons including 143 last season. Cruz is one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, even after his down year last year. He is a threat to go the distance any time he touches the football.
The Giants are now at a major crossroads when it comes to negotiating with their restricted free agent. There will be a few other teams lurking in the background looking to make an offer to Cruz once free agency opens. It will be up to the Giants to decide whether or not they match to keep one of their most popular, and best, players.