No Bull — Ernie's Quick Hits On 3 Hot Topics

By Ernie Palladino
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ITEM: Victor Cruz signs long-term deal.

The day everybody knew was coming came Monday. Five-year extension, $43 million, with $15.6 million in guaranteed money.

That’s an average of $8.5 million per year, a bit lower than the $11 million average he was seeking, and under the top 10 level at the position. But it’s still not a bad payday for a guy who made just $1.3 million since the Giants signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He would have made $2.879 under his restricted free agent tender this year, but now he gets to pocket an extra $9.5 million signing bonus to go along with the rest of the new money over the next five years.

It’s a good move on Cruz’s part. He was looking to be paid a top 10 salary. Instead, he settles for being the 18th highest paid receiver in the league. And the fact is, that’s about right.

Cruz has had two great seasons after missing his rookie year injured. That probably isn’t enough to rate him top 10, though there remains little doubt about his impact on the downfield game.

Assuming he stays relatively healthy over the next three years, he’ll undoubtedly be in line for some sort of restructuring, which will mean more guaranteed money and probably a raise. Worst-case scenario, he remains an exciting game-changer for the life of the contract, and at 32 hit’s the free agent market for an even bigger payday.

Let’s remember, too, that he’s not doing all those soup and cable TV commercials for free, either.

For now, a kid from the streets of Paterson, N.J. who played for the league minimum and no signing bonus has become richer than he ever dreamed. And, as an added bonus, he adds to a deserved good-guy image by leaving the Giants a little money to negotiate with their other big-time receiver, Hakeem Nicks. That may not happen until after the season, as Jerry Reese might want this year to assess the team’s often-injured, nominal No. 1 receiver health-wise.

Nicks will be looking in the $10 million to $11 million range, the same as Cruz was. Unlike Cruz, he probably won’t settle for $8.5 million if he stays healthy. But by not breaking the bank on Cruz, the Giants may have given themselves a little financial leeway to bargain with Nicks.

A good deal all around.

ITEM: Rex Ryan runs with the bulls in Pamplona.

Plenty of jokes available here. But if you really want a laugh, take a look at the picture in the Post, where Ryan’s gray hair makes him stand out among the younger runners on the left. As the angry bull and his horns look the other way for a moment, Ryan wears the same look he probably had when he hired Tony Sparano as his offensive coordinator last year.

You know the look. The “Maybe-I-Didn’t-Think-This-Through-So-Great” look.

Ryan actually ran twice, on Sunday and Monday, and escaped unscathed. Thanks to his lap-band surgery-enabled slim-down from 348 pounds — about a third the weight of one of the bulls he ran from, if you’re keeping score — he was able to scale a fence to dodge one of the raging animals.

He might want to take all that energy with him into training camp, where he’ll be dodging media bullets as he tries to figure out whether Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith is truly the Jets’ franchise quarterback. Or, maybe, that that person isn’t even here, and won’t be until Ryan is gone.

Fact is, it takes a hearty man to run with the bulls. These days, it takes just as much to coach the Jets.

ITEM: Lawrence Taylor, Jr. arrested.

Felony counts of statutory rape, sodomy, and child molestation for the great linebacker’s 31-year-old son. Chip off the old block. No. 56 must be so proud.

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