The New York Giants followed the Green Bay Packers lead by getting in early on player cuts with the release of wide receiver Victor Cruz and running back Rashad Jennings today. The two moves will clear $10 million in salary cap space for the Giants, moving them to about $32 million in estimated room, which ranks around the middle of the NFL.
Cruz came to prominence with the Giants in 2011 when Cruz exploded out of nowhere to post a 1,500 yard season en route to a Giants Super Bowl championship. Cruz would immediately become a fan favorite for outplaying expectations and doing his salsa dance after every score. Cruz signed a big contract extension in 2013 but injuries soon began to pile up and he effectively missed the entire 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Cruz took a pay cut to remain with the Giants in 2016 and was their third most used receiver but slowly began to lose to time to rookie Roger Lewis and Tavarres King towards the end of the season. While Cruz would have some flashes of his old self, his 39.1 YPG was, by far, his worst since establishing himself as a threat in 2011. I had thought there was a good chance the Giants would have released Cruz last season after the injuries and had him rated as number 1 among all potential wide receiver cuts this year.
For a team looking for a 3rd wide receiver Cruz could be an intriguing option if the team thinks they can catch lightning in a bottle as Cruz is further removed from his injuries. From a numbers standpoint he would not be much different than a Harry Douglas type that generally earn close to $4M a year on three year contracts. That said it is probably just as likely that other teams see him as little more than a name who doesn’t separate in coverage anymore and injury risk which would lead to a minimum type of contract.
Jennings was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Giants in 2014 following a one year stint with the Raiders in which Jennings ran for 733 yards. Jennings became the starter for the Giants over the last three years but never really provided enough consistency for the Giants running game to take any pressure off Eli Manning and the pass game.
Coming off a bad year in which he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry it seemed likely that, at 32 years of age, Jennings would be released. Paul Perkins is younger and the team has more invested in Shane Vereen as the pass catcher if he is healthy. The Giants are probably hoping for more at the position to cover for Manning as he begins to break down which likely makes them a live team in free agency for one of the top running backs available.