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The Manufactured Drama of Victor Cruz's Contract

Cruz has a few days to sign with another team, but that's not happening

By Josh Alper
|  Friday, Apr 12, 2013  |  Updated 11:15 AM EDT
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The Manufactured Drama of Victor Cruz's Contract

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Cruz is getting a lot of flak for wanting to stay a Giant.

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To any reasonable person, it took about 30 seconds of looking at Victor Cruz's options this offseason to know that there was never any fear that he would be doing anything but playing for the Giants in 2013. 

As a restricted free agent tendered a contract at the highest level, a team trying to sign Cruz would have to surrender a first-round pick while also signing him to a long-term deal big enough that the Giants wouldn't match. Since that never ever happens in the NFL, most people would have just stopped there. 

But they could have also continued on to realize that Cruz's desire to be more than just a football player -- see his fashion line and memoir written after one NFL season -- is best served by staying in the New York area. Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reports that Cruz told his agents (one of whom is now Jay-Z) as much. 

This is not the behavior of a man trying to get out of town. This is the behavior of a man destroying his only leverage in a contract negotiation. 

Cruz has been working out with Eli Manning and doing absolutely everything he can to get the message out that he wants to remain with the Giants. Which makes it pretty odd that the Giants are treating him like a greedy pariah. 

Owner John Mara, who usually makes snide remarks about teams residing in New Jersey that do their business through the media, has made sure to let the media and fans know that Cruz has been offered a deal that Mara deems more than fair for Cruz's services. It's believed to be in the neighborhood of $7 million per year, which Mara has been careful to point out is a lot of money for a player who the Giants rescued from obscurity as an undrafted free agent. 

It's also only slightly more over the next two years than Cruz can make by playing under this year's tender and then under the franchise tag in 2014, which explains why a player confident in his abilities would make a bet on himself rather than just sign whatever Mara deigns to slip under his nose. It isn't just the owner trying to make Cruz look bad, though. 

His teammate Justin Tuck is doing the same thing, urging Cruz to "show good faith" and show up for the start of voluntary workouts next week even though he doesn't have a contract. That's pretty patronizing advice to give a guy who can still sign with another team through the end of next week and who would be tossed aside in a heartbeat by the Giants if he were to injure himself while showing good faith. 

There has been nothing inappropriate about the way Cruz has handled himself this offseason. He's absolutely entitled to look for as much money as possible to do his job and has not missed one mandatory bit of work for a team that values him less than he values himself. 

Such is life in the professional world and it's a bit sad to see the attempts to make it seem like anything else from Giants camp when their real concern has nothing to do with what Cruz does this offseason. It has to do with next offseason when they could possibly face losing both Cruz and Hakeem Nicks as unrestricted free agents. 

You can only franchise one of them, which means it would be in the Giants' favor to sign Cruz to a below-market deal now so that they can either squeeze Nicks or use the tag on him. Hard to see the good faith and loyalty there, but, then, it has never been about those things. 

It's just business and there's nothing remarkable about any of it. 

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

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