An already well-populated wide receiver labor pool in free agency just increased its population by one today as the New York Giants released Victor Cruz.
Cruz is a seven-year veteran who didn’t regain form in 2016 coming off of a lengthy rehab run after a devastating knee injury in 2014. Undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft, Cruz parlayed a strong preseason after coming out of UMass to make the team in his rookie season, though a hamstring injury cut his season short after just three games. In his second year, though, Cruz became a breakout star both due to his popular salsa dancing touchdown celebration as well as the 1,500-plus receiving yards he put on the board in 2011. In a three-year run from 2011-13, Cruz averaged more than 80 receptions, more than 1,200 receiving yards and more than seven touchdowns per season. Last year post-injury rehabilitation, Cruz caught 39 passes for more than 500 yards in a crowded WR depth chart that now features Odell Beckham, Jr., and Sterling Shepard.
The move frees up $7.5m for the Giants with free agency opening up in less than a month.
As for the Rams, they’ve got work to do at wide receiver. Kenny Britt is a free agent, and there’s no certainty he’ll be back on a new deal under new Head Coach Sean McVay. Tavon Austin re-signed last offseason on a deal that made him one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL; he responded with 668 yards from scrimmage in 2016, a 26% decline from 2015. Brian Quick, on a one-year re-up deal, gained 55 more receiving yards than Austin on 17 less receptions. Rookie draft picks Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas weren’t integrated into the offense until well, well late into the season, a factor somewhat influenced by former Head Coach Jeff Fisher’s penchant for avoiding rookie playing time early in their first NFL year.
Building out a more threatening wide receiver group is going to take more than one offseason and will need to build out from the draft moreso than free agent patchwork efforts, but for 2017 the immediate need to upgrade the talent means at least one buy is likely.
Could Victor Cruz be a Ram in 2017?