There is a really interesting report today from Adam Schefter of ESPN that the New York Giants are prioritizing the contract of Hakeem Nicks over that of Victor Cruz. Schefter says the Giants "would like to tie him to the team long term as it views him as a legitimate No. 1 receiver."
Nicks, 25, has one year left on his contract and can be an unrestricted free agent after the 2013 season. Cruz, 26, is currently a restricted free agent.
Are the Giants right here, if indeed Schefter is correct?
I believe they are, with one caveat. That caveat is whether or not Nicks, who has never made it through a 16-game season, can remain healthy.
Cruz is, of course, the great story. He is the salsa-dancing, Campbell's Soup commercial-making, face of the franchise type mega-star. His smile, his story and his personality make him more than a football player.
Nicks is not the flashy player Cruz is, nor anywhere close to being the public personality Cruz has become. He is, however, a solid 6-foot-1, 210-pounder receiver who can simply dominate cornerbacks with his big body and huge hands.
Cruz caught 86 passes and scored 10 touchdowns in 2012. Read comments from NFL defenders, though, and there were indications they felt they could intimidate Cruz across the middle of the field -- and, at times, they might have been right. Without a healthy Nicks, limited to 53 catches in 11 games due to foot and knee issues, Cruz' yards per catch dropped from 18.7 in 2011 to 12.7 in 2012.
The Giants would, obviously, like to keep both players long-term. There are few tandems in the NFL as good or better than Nicks/Cruz when both players are healthy. The Giants, you can be certain, understand that.
Here are two questions the Giants have to answer.
1. Without a superstar wide receiver on the opposite side, which player -- Nicks or Cruz -- has the better ability to stand alone and impact games? The only evidence we have is that we saw the dropoff this season in the number of big plays Cruz made. He was, much more, a possession receiver without Nicks to draw attention.
2. Given their physical attributes, which player is likely to be productive longer? Nicks is a big receiver who has decent speed, but relies on his route-running, his huge hands and his physical strength to make the difficult play. Cruz is more of a slender receiver who relies on his quickness to get open and his shiftiness in the open field to turn short catches into big plays. It sounds like the Giants are betting on Nicks' size, strength and immense hands -- attributes that will still be there long after he may lose a half-step in terms of speed.
What do you think, Giants' fans? Is this the right decision for the Giants to make?