‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.”
Victor Cruz came out Thursday and said that, while he didn’t feel underpaid as an undrafted free agent that made the league-minimum $450,000 in 2011, he should be paid more than the $490,000 he’s due next year.
He wasn’t militant about it. He didn’t throw an Osi Umenyiora-type pay-me-or-release-me tantrum. You kind of get the idea, and the hope, that the salsa-dancing, first-year hero of the Giants’ championship season will never turn into that.
But he did spark the big question. After being such an integral part in a Super Bowl-winning season, why shouldn’t the Giants spice up his salsa-and-chips-level contract with an extra jalapeno or two?
Get it? Jalapeno? Green?
But we digress. While this writer is not particularly enamored of reworking players’ contracts, especially when they have two more years remaining on them, maybe general manager Jerry Reese has to make an adjustment here. Cruz wasn’t just Eli Manning’s second or third passing option. He was a go-to guy and a playmaker, just as valuable in his team-high 82 catches for a franchise record 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns as former first-round draft choice Hakeem Nicks.
And Nicks gets paid a darned sight more than Cruz if you count a 2012 base salary that will be $300,000 higher than Cruz’ and whatever is left from the $6.5 million signing bonus the Giants gave him in 2009.
While Umenyiora undoubtedly will be knocking on Reese’s door again — he still has one year at $3.75 million left on his deal — Cruz could be there, too, along with other players who believe they, too, deserve a bump after a championship effort.
It’s a happy problem for Reese that goes with the blessing of a Lombardi Trophy.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Reese said. “You win a Super Bowl and everybody thinks they’re the reason we won it. It’s just part of the offseason. There’s always contract issues.
“We’re in the early stages of the evaluation process. We’re evaluating our players from our perspective.”
As Reese expects the salary cap to remain close to last year’s approximate $120 million figure, and with outsiders’ expectations that Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham will leave in free agency, the Giants won’t be able to accommodate everybody. At least not to everyone’s satisfaction.
But here’s the thing with Cruz. He might just get that extra money. Reese said the future, not just the here and now, influences a lot of the team’s financial decisions.
So the question is, was Cruz’ performance worth renegotiating things past the two remaining years? Would Reese be amenable to show some faith that 2011 was not just a fluke for the small-town, small-college kid, rip up his contract, and hand him a lucrative deal that locks him up for the next four seasons?
It would be worth his while.
Of all the people who will be knocking on Reese’s door with their hand out, Cruz is most deserving.
Should the Giants re-work Cruz’s deal? Sound off in the comments below…