Just How Much Money is Victor Cruz Worth?

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IApril 4, 2013

Dec 9, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ,  New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) gets the crowd up during the third quarter against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

If restricted free agent Victor Cruz is to remain with the New York Giants in 2013 and beyond, the two sides will soon have to come to a compromise on the Pro Bowl receiver's contractual worth. 

The Giants have already offered Cruz a long-term deal worth more than $7 million annually, with "a sizable amount" of guaranteed money also included, according to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News

Cruz, who was given a first-round restricted tender worth just $2.879 million in 2013 by the Giants, has a much higher price tag in mind. 

According to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, Cruz was previously seeking $10-11 million per year with his former representation agency. Cruz has now teamed with rapper Jay-Z and his new sports label, Roc Nation Sports. Such a transition isn't likely to make Cruz any cheaper for the Giants to retain. 

However, the Giants' offer is likely much closer to Cruz's actual worth than the $10-11 million request the receiver's side is currently making. 

For starters, the reality of the slot receiver market hurts Cruz's negotiation power. 

Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Cruz spent nearly 70 percent of his snaps last season in the slot, which is comparable to both Wes Welker and Danny Amendola—two receivers who also received new deals this offseason. 

Welker, 31, signed a two-year deal worth just $12 million with the Denver Broncos, while Amendola, 27, landed a five-year, $28.5 million contract from the New England Patriots. Welker's deal averages $6 million per year, Amendola's $5.7 million. 

Cruz is clearly worth more than both—he's just 26 years old and hasn't missed a game over the last two seasons, while also catching 19 touchdowns since 2011—but the market is clearly dictating that slot receivers make less than legitimate No. 1 receivers. 

While not elite money, the Giants' offer of over $7 million per year is right on par with the going rate at Cruz's position.

Cruz is clearly targeting No. 1 receiver money. It's hard to blame him after seeing all the mega-deals signed over the last 12 months. 

The receiver-desperate Miami Dolphins just gave Mike Wallace $12 million a year. The two sides agreed to a five-year, $60 million deal on the first day of free agency. 

Likewise, Dwayne Bowe received five years and $56 million from the Kansas City Chiefs, for an average salary of $11.2 million. Percy Harvin, a multi-talented weapon who also plays the slot, signed a six-year, $67 million deal worth $11.17 million annually with the Seattle Seahawks

During the 2012 offseason, Vincent Jackson received $11 million per season over five years to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Even Greg Jennings, a 29-year-old receiver who suffered through injuries over the last two seasons, landed $9 million annually from the Minnesota Vikings

While Cruz has back-to-back 80-catch, 1,000-yard seasons and a Pro Bowl selection in 2012 in his corner, the Giants can certainly look into the future and awaiting them is the looming free agency of fellow receiver Hakeem Nicks. 

Just 25 years old, Nicks is likely valued by New York as a legitimate No. 1 receiver. 

Manning the ever-important outside receiver position, Nicks posted two straight 1,000-yard seasons and caught 18 touchdowns from 2010-2011. Injuries slowed his production in 2012, but a big 2013 season could mean huge bucks from the Giants next offseason. 

New York can afford to give Cruz top slot money, but investing No. 1 money in two receivers will handcuff the Giants in future years. 

If the two sides can't come together on a value compromise, Cruz could face the possibility of playing (or not) the 2013 season on a restricted tender of under $3 million. It would be a significant financial risk for Cruz to continue balking at the Giants' ballpark deal. 

A four-year deal worth roughly $30 million or a five-year deal in the $38-40 million range might not be what Cruz is looking for, but both deals better represent his overall worth than the annual $10-11 million he's currently seeking.