Victor Cruz, once the brightest star in the New York Giants’ galaxy, has fallen back down to earth in a crushing manner. The wide receiver who broke onto the scene at the beginning of the decade as an undrafted free agent out of UMass, has found himself unemployed after several injury-laden seasons rendered him an afterthought in the Giants’ plans.
The fact is, the Giants have moved on. Cruz’ devastating 2014 patellar injury forced him to miss the second half of that season, and a residual calf issue kept him out of all of the next season. By that time, the Giants had replaced him in the lineup with Odell Beckham, Jr. and Sterling Shepard.
Last season, Cruz showed up on a lesser contract and wedged his way back into the Giants’ offense only to find himself a third wheel with few targets in the passing game. The former international superstar from Paterson, who made his mark with electrifying plays and his trademark salsa touchdown dance, was clearly at the end of his Giants’ career.
The Giants did not re-sign Cruz after last season in which he had a moderate 39 receptions for 586 yards and one touchdown. With younger options on the roster and the arrival of both free agent WR Brandon Marshall and top draft pick TE Evan Engram made Cruz’ Giants’ days are a thing of the past. Especially since Engram is expected to line up as a WR in many formations.
These days, the 30 year-old Cruz stays ready in hopes that a team in need of a veteran wideout rings him up, such as Jacksonville where his old coach Tom Coughlin is now in charge, or Carolina, who is run by ex-Giant executive Dave Gettlemen, calls the shots.
“I just want to play,” Cruz told The New York Post on Tuesday. “I’m just anxious to get on a team, anxious to play some football and anxious to see where I end up.”
Even though Cruz still has some gas in the tank, there’s not a huge market in the NFL for aging players with a history of injuries any more. With the NFL Draft producing scores of superstar skill players every year, teams know there is less upside in signing veterans to a job a younger player may be able to fill. Cruz has fallen into that category.
The Giants will not be ringing up Cruz’ digits any time soon. In addition to Beckham, Shepard, Marshall and Engram, Big Blue also has Dwayne Harris on the roster and several promising young receivers such as Roger Lewis, Darius Power and Taverras King. Next week the club will hold their rookie camp where several UDFA wideouts are expected to attend: Travis Rudolph of Florida State, UMass’ Jalin Williams, Keoon Johnson of Virginia and Wisconsin’s Rob Wheelwright.
Cruz knows the door has closed. But usually when one door closes, another one opens. He just has to be patient.
“I’m just anxious to see someone that wants me on their team and I end up being there,” Cruz told The Post. “It’s my first time being in this position, it’s my first time being in free agency. After being on a team for seven years, you never know what to expect. I’m just excited for this opportunity, excited to be ready, and see where I end up…You have to always stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready. That’s always been my motto.”