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Victor Cruz's Ascent Could Force Tough Giants Decisions

Cruz is one of several young stars in line for a big payday

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Oct 24, 2012  |  Updated 9:42 AM EDT
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As the final touchdown of Sunday's game made clear, the Giants lucked into something pretty special with Victor Cruz. 

Every year there are a ton or articles in early August about unknown players that beat writers for various football teams are turning into superstars before their first meaningful moment as professionals. Most of the time, those players fade into oblivion and the writers try to keep a straight face when they write the same thing with different names the next season.

Cruz is the exception to that rule. There haven't been many receivers in history with more prolific starts to their careers than Cruz and the kind of numbers that Cruz has put up lead to all manners of riches. 

While the Giants are surely pleased with their good fortune at Cruz turning into a star, that last part is going to create an issue they have to deal with sooner or later. Cruz is making $540,000 this season, a paltry sum for a player at his level and a number that will skyrocket at some point in the near future. 

Bob Glauber of Newsday argues that the time to take care of Cruz is at hand, especially because he's proven this season that his success is not merely the byproduct of Eli Manning and a strong receiving corps around him. Cruz's game has more nuance than it did last season, more subtle moves that lead to big gains instead of last year's humiliation of nickel corners who weren't up to the task of covering the elusive receiver. 

Cruz isn't making any big push, sticking to his word from the offseason even after he admitted that his salary isn't in line with his role on the team. Glauber reports no new deal is imminent and Cruz says he won't let that affect him.

"I just kind of want to block it out,” Cruz said. “I feel like if I start thinking about it, it will start consuming me, and I don’t want it to get that way. I just want to block it out and focus on football, and I think I’ve been doing a good job of that."

Indeed he has, but things are going to come to a head at some point. It may not be with Cruz, though. 

In the next few years, the Giants are going to have to deal with second contracts for Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Jason Pierre-Paul, Linval Joseph, Marvin Austin, Prince Amukamara and Will Beatty in addition to any other contract needs that should arise with older players. Not all of these players will require budget-busting deals, but all those raises will force Jerry Reese to make tough choices about which players to keep. 

There are plenty of mechanisms available to the team, including the fact that Cruz will be a restricted free agent this offseason, but none of them will allow the team to keep all the players while also addressing needs coming at offensive line, safety and linebacker. Cruz and Nicks are likely to wind up being at the center of it all. 

Right now, the Giants have two No. 1 receivers and that's a huge benefit to the offense. It's very difficult to pay two No. 1 receivers in today's NFL without leaving yourself short at other spots on the roster, however, and, barring the unlikely possibility of one of them signing a way below market deal, the Giants will likely have to make a call about which one is really the top dog. 

No one should feel sorry for the Giants since these are the kinds of decisions every team has to make and, as we've seen in past seasons, the Giants don't tend to let emotional attachments dictate their personnel calls. If that continues, at least one beloved member of the team is going to wind up in another uniform. 

The good news is that the reckoning is still a while off, which gives the Giants time to figure out how to deal with so much of a good thing. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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