The 31-year-old Jennings led the Giants in rushing last season with 593 yards, but averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. He was slated to count $3.06 million against the cap next season, and his release will save the Giants $2.5 million.
Jennings, like Cruz, had hoped to to return to the Giants. He will, however, have to continue his career elsewhere.
“That’s the least of my worries,” Jennings said. “When (Jerry Reese) called me, I was in the gym. I’m in Florida right now training. I had to step out to talk to him. He said, ‘I didn’t expect anything less for you to be training right now.’ He encouraged me, ‘that’s why you can continue to play. You take care of your body and do the little things.’ I know me and my skillset that I bring to the table. I have more football left in me. I’m a vet, a leader, a motivator, can do anything. I finished the league in the top five in pass protection. I can catch out the backfield, run the ball, play special teams and I want to win the championship. Yes, I have more football left.”
Analyzing the moves
Both of these moves were expected as the Giants a) look to clear salary cap room with free agency approaching and b) look to upgrade an offense that underperformed expectations in 2016.
From a football perspective, the release of Cruz clears a logjam for the Giants at receiver, where Cruz, Sterling Shepard and even Odell Beckham Jr. are smaller receivers who function well in the slot. Cruz was forced to play almost exclusively outside in 2016. The Giants could give young players like Roger Lewis Jr. and perhaps even Darius Powe a look on the outside. They could also look to free agency, where the options include Alshon Jeffery [profile], Brian Quick [profile], Kenny Britt [profile], Kenny Stills and others, or draft and develop a young receiver.
The release of Jennings makes, for now, 2016 fifth-round pick Paul Perkins the No. 1 back. The Giants were 29th in the league in rushing yards and 30th in yards per rushing attempt last season. It would be no surprise if the Giants try to find a back in the 2017 NFL Draft to complement Perkins.