Jerry Reese disputes report that Giants prefer Hakeem Nicks to Victor Cruz
INDIANAPOLIS — Just as New York Giants co-owner John Mara did on Thursday, general manager Jerry Reese disputed on Saturday a report that his franchise’s front office would prefer to keep Hakeem Nicks over Victor Cruz.
“That’s not correct,” Reese said at the scouting combine.
Reese did not elaborate much beyond that in terms of the Giants’ plans. He stated only that the team would “leave our options open”, when asked about possibly using the franchise tag to keep Cruz, a restricted free agent, in tow.
Earlier in the week, Mara insisted that the Giants plan to sign both Cruz and Nicks — “They’re both priorities for us,” Mara said, according to The Star-Ledger.
The Giants could keep Cruz for the 2013 season by using a first-round tender on him, which would come with a $2.879 million contract. Cruz, though, has hinted at a possible training camp holdout under that scenario. He has a point in his stance, since even at that price tag, he would be an extreme bargain after averaging 84 catches and 1,314 yards over the past two seasons.
Using the franchise tag instead of that first-round tender would take off the table any possibility that Cruz could be snatched up by another team. The rest of the NFL would be free to recruit Cruz, up until he signed that one-year tender, but would owe the Giants a first-round pick if he signed elsewhere.
Nicks, meanwhile, is headed into a contract year and could hit unrestricted free agency after 2013. He’s set to make just $2.725 million (meaning the Giants could, in theory, have Cruz and Nicks around for one more year at less than $6 million total), but the Giants have expressed interest in a long-term extension.
The Giants did use draft picks in both 2011 and ’12 on wide receivers: Jerrell Jernigan during the ’11 draft and Rueben Randle a year later. That duo, though, combined for just 22 catches in 2012.
New York also faces the possible loss of its second-, fourth- and fifth-leading receivers from last season — TE Martellus Bennett, WR Domenik Hixon and RB Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants already cut Bradshaw in a cost-cutting move this offseason, while both Bennett and Hixon are unrestricted free agents. Reese may eventually opt to use the franchise tag to keep Bennett around, but that, of course, would prevent him from handing it to Cruz.
Long story short, the Giants have a lot of decisions to make on the offensive side of the ball in coming days … and they appear no closer to those solutions now than they were a few days ago.