Giants general manager Jerry Reese was happy to get back to work this week, as the team officially began the 2013 season with voluntary workouts. But he was in no mood to discuss the one guy who treated these sessions as, in fact, voluntary.
Restricted free agent wide receiver Victor Cruz decided to steer clear of Big Blue’s workouts, perhaps as an injury precaution, perhaps as contract negotiation leverage, or perhaps as both.
Either way, Reese had no desire to speak about Cruz.
“The Victor Cruz thing will play out, and wherever it goes it will go from there. You guys are really interested in the whole Victor thing, and I get that. But there is not a lot for me to talk about right now,” Reese said. “I wish I could talk more about it, but it really is inappropriate to be talking about it. … I would characterize [discussions] as we have talked but nothing further to report.”
The Giants hold the upper hand on the Cruz dealings because while the Pro Bowl wideout is actually without a contract, he’s been given a tender, which allows the Giants to own his rights. Cruz could sign a participation agreement — much like teammate and fellow restricted free agent Andre Brown did — and allow him to take part in the workouts, but he chose not to.
That’s the wideout’s choice, said Reese.
“Guys have choices. Andre chose to come and Victor chose not to come,” Reese said. “Victor’s not here. He’s a free agent. He’s exercising all of his options, and we’ll see how it goes.”
When asked about the draft prospects and whether Cruz’s abstinence from the facilities would affect his draft board, Reese was cryptic about the prospects of going forward without Cruz. He even came close to spewing head coach Tom Coughlin’s “next man up” mantra.
“Obviously, he’s a big part of what we were doing the past few years. He did a nice job, just like [wideout Hakeem] Nicks did a nice job, just like a lot of players did a nice job. But it’s all about team for us. Victor was a nice piece for what we were doing, and we’ll see where it goes with respect to his contract,” Reese said. “I can tell you this, when we get ready to start the season, we’ll have good players out there. … I’m not sure if Victor will be there or not. I don’t assume anything.”
Cruz reportedly wants to be rewarded with a deal commensurate with the top slot receivers in the game — namely newly signed wideout Wes Welker of the Broncos, who was inked to a two-year, $12 million deal. The Giants reportedly offered a deal that averaged out to $7 million annually. Cruz has yet to sign it.
The team and player remain far apart, as Friday stands to be the final day when another team can sign Cruz to an offer sheet. Cruz was paid a base salary of $540,000 last year, in which he caught 86 passes and had 10 touchdowns. This year’s tender would pay him $2.879 million, not bad for a once-undrafted player, but also well below market value for a player with Cruz’s past production.
One guy who wants this resolved quickly is quarterback Eli Manning. The veteran signal caller wished the best for both sides, but ultimately stayed away from picking sides.
Manning recently worked out with Cruz and Nicks at Duke University (older brother Peyton and Welker were also there), and while the Giants trio bonded, the younger Manning said he never asked about Cruz’s situation.
“I’m not going to pry. He’s got to do what’s in the best interest of him,” Manning said. “That’s usually staying away and putting pressure [on the team] to try and get the deal done.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.