If you were looking for a signal that the celebration is over and the Giants offseason has begun, your wait is over.
Appearing on PFT Live Thursday, Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz addressed the fact that he's set to make $490,000 next season after setting a franchise record with 1,536 receiving yards this season. Not surprisingly, Cruz thinks that's a bit too much of a bargain for the Giants.
"I think I was paid, you know, relative to where I came in this year and, you know, I came in as a free agent so that’s the salary I was on, so I don’t feel like I was underpaid,” Cruz said. “I mean, I feel like after my performance this year, you know, I feel like I deserve to be paid more money at this point. But that’s something I’ll let my agents and those people take care of and I’ll just go out there and play the game."
That answer should be printed out onto laminated cards for every NFL player to keep with them as a reminder of just what to say whenever a question about their contract is lobbed in their direction.
Cruz is dead right about being paid exactly what he deserved ($450,000 for a contract signed as an undrafted free agent) for the 2011 season and he's just as right that his season changes the landscape dramatically going forward.
Being right doesn't mean that there won't be voices arguing the other side of the coin when it comes to a new Cruz contract. Among those potential arguments: He's still two years away from unrestricted free agency, he should honor the contract he signed and the Giants would establish a precedent by handing him big money after one good season.
This is actually a precedent the Giants should set for their organization. When a player wildly overperforms his contract, it sends a good message that you recognize that and reward him with a deal that reflects his standing instead of acting like you're some kind of genius for getting A-list performance at bargain prices.
While it is true that Cruz has no leverage right now, it doesn't make all that much sense to use that as a way to turn the screws and tell him to keep proving it over and over. Sending a message that your performance doesn't matter when it comes to compensation sets a bad tone, especially when it will be cheaper to sign him now than it will be a few years down the road.
This isn't Osi Umenyiora complaining a couple of years after signing a big contract while battling injuries and putting forth inconsistent performances. This is a player who you signed on a whim who turned out to be an essential part of a Super Bowl team, making him exactly the kind of player you want to make happy now so that it doesn't lead to animosity down the road.
Alas, things are rarely that easy in the NFL. Cruz isn't the only player that is looking for and deserving of a raise.
Hakeem Nicks and Corey Webster come immediately to mind and the Giants are already in trouble with the cap before they even think about filling any holes. Some people are going to be left unhappy, making for ugly headlines and possible holdouts as Jerry Reese tries to sort through all of the people looking to cash in on the championship run.
Not everyone will get taken care of and that will mean some departures, but that's a much nicer problem to have than the ones the Giants have had to deal with in the last few offseasons.