Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 6/23/13
Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz will be free agents soon. (Photo credit) The stress levels of Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin, and the rest of the Giants’ front office were lessened last week when RFA wide receiver Victor Cruz signed his one-year tender, ensuring that he will remain in the Meadowlands for at least one more season. However, the ongoing saga of the team’s contract talks with their star wide receivers are far from over. Both Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are now looking at unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the 2013 season, and though they have both been engaged in long-term extension talks with the Giants, there has been little progress made over the past few months on that front. With training camp due to open in just over a month, the clock to get these deals done and avoid a holdout situation is winding down. Ideally, of course, the Giants would love to sign both receivers to long-term deals and keep one of the most potent 1-2 combos in the league together for years to come. However, due to their tight salary cap situation and the high contract demands from both players, there is a distinct possibility that they will have to choose between keeping only one of the superstar receivers for the long term. But if this situation comes to pass, who will the Giants prioritize? As of now, it appears as if the contract demands for both players will be roughly the same. After being the biggest bargain in the NFL for the past two years, Cruz has been demanding a deal that will make up for lost time by paying him a top-5 salary at the position (at least $9 million annually), while the Giants’ best offer to date is worth around $8M per year. Meanwhile, it seems unlikely that Nicks would settle for much less than that given that he could likely receive an equal or greater offer on the open market. Both have also irked Coach Coughlin this offseason, Nicks with his mysterious absence from the voluntary workouts, and Cruz with his absence during their recent minicamp. So, if all variables are equal, what this ultimately comes down to is: which receiver presents the better long-term option? When looking at their physical tools, the advantage lies with Nicks. Slightly taller and heavier, and with significantly larger hands, he’s the more prototypical downfield threat than the faster and shiftier Cruz due to his greater ability to win jump balls. However, it’s also worth noting that Cruz is not just a slot receiver, either, as he has seen plenty of snaps while lined up on the outside. That versatility was on prominent display this past season, as he filled in admirably as the team’s No. 1 threat while Nicks was dealing with his knee and ankle injuries. And that brings up what could be the most important factor in all of this – durability. Nicks’s various injuries have prevented him from ever suiting up for all 16 games in his 4-year career (and has occasionally played merely as a decoy), while Cruz has yet to miss a game in his two years with the Giants, leading the team in targets over that span. If the New York front office feels that Nicks represents the greater risk due to his injury history, they could put him on the back burner while working out Cruz’s extension. Of course, the Giants are hoping that it won’t come to any of this, as the priority will continue to be to lock up both franchise receivers to long-term deals before the start of the 2013 season. However, if forced to choose, look for them to put the higher priority on Cruz while looking for Nicks to prove that he can stay healthy for a full season before committing to another lucrative contract. By: Craig Lowell Twitter: @craigrlowell

This article first appeared on The Sports Post and was syndicated with permission.

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