The team announced Monday they have released the former undrafted free agent turned star wideout. NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones, citing a source close to the receiver, said Cruz was doing “ok” upon hearing the news.
The development was first reported by The Record.
“Victor is one of the great stories of the National Football League,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese said in a statement. “He came in here and earned everything that he’s gotten. It has been amazing to see him grow from an undrafted free agent to a Pro Bowl player and one of our go-to guys during the Super Bowl XLVI run. He will always be one of the great Giants.”
Cruz’s departure saves the team nearly $10 million against the salary cap. He was due to make $7.4 million this season.
So ends an era in recent New York Giants history. Cruz stormed onto the scene thanks to a three-touchdown performance against the New York Jets back in the 2010 preseason. A hometown product from Patterson, New Jersey, his close proximity to the Giants‘ facility added to his status as a local legend. During his first full season in 2011, he caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns, including a back-breaking 99-yard score against the Jets on Christmas Eve — a game that effectively ended the Rex Ryan era while simultaneously propelling the Giants to their second Super Bowl title in four years.
The 30-year-old veteran made an unexpected comeback in 2016 after missing 28 games over the previous two years thanks to a torn patellar tendon and calf injury in back to back years. Normally a death sentence for a speed-oriented wide receiver, Cruz found a way to contribute this season, catching 39 balls for 586 yards and a touchdown.
As Jones noted, the further Cruz gets from his injuries, the closer he will get to becoming a contributor on the field. It would not be surprising to see the Giants bring him back at a more reasonable salary or see Cruz in camp elsewhere. The wideout still believes he has gas left in the tank.
“I think I have a lot of good football left ahead of me,” Cruz said in a statement. “I think there is still a lot of miles left on this body. I’ll definitely be searching and looking for work as the time comes.”
Cruz helped power a few years of high-wire offenses designed by former coordinator and longtime Eli Manning coach Kevin Gilbride. Alongside Hakeem Nicks, the Giants posted the fifth-best passing offense in football back in 2011 and were fourth in yards per attempt. Cruz’s play in the slot buoyed Manning and helped give him a much-needed second wind in New York.
An undrafted free agent out of UMass, Cruz was one of the few players to be re-signed by the team in the Jerry Reese era. His five-year, $45 million extension signed back in 2013 was a significant move for the notoriously thrifty Giants at the time. Cruz is currently 10th on the franchise’s all-time receiving yards list with 4,549 yards and is 17th in touchdowns, with 25.
A photo posted by VictorCruz (@teamvic) on Feb 13, 2017 at 11:30am PST