It was not unexpected. Cruz missed the last two seasons with injuries, and this season, when he finally came back, he had a subpar year. Only 35 catches, way down for him. He had a very high salary number for next year, too high for a third receiver, and by cutting him the Giants saved $7.5 million against the salary cap, money they can now use to improve elsewhere. And they really need to improve elsewhere -- on the offensive line and at tight end, especially -- if they hope to advance further in the playoffs than they did this season.
All the same, the release made me sad. Victor Cruz was my favorite player, and I was hoping he would retire as a Giant. I think Victor was hoping the same. He seemed not only to be a terrific player, but a terrific guy, an undrafted free agent who walked on and made it big.
If it had been up to me, I would have stayed the course and kept Cruz. Ask him to take a salary cut, sure. I think he would have done that. Next year, I would have moved him back to the slot, his best position. He was just not as effective last season playing outside the numbers. And while the rookie Sterling Shepard was a good slot receiver last season, Cruz in his prime was a GREAT slot receiver, one of the best in the league. If the Giants had kept Victor in the slot, and played Shepard outside, both of them might have had better years.
One mediocre year and two years on injured reserve can make us forget -- especially since Odell Beckham Junior has been dazzling Giants fans with spectacular catches during those same three seasons -- just how good Victor Cruz was before his injury. When he was good, he was very very good, as the saying goes. Here, take a look, remember:
We'll miss the salsas...
Good luck, Victor. You earned it.