EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The Giants on Monday parted ways with a pair of offensive veterans on the wrong side of 30, freeing up $10 million in salary cap space.
The team released wide receiver Victor Cruz, Kim Jones of WFAN and NFL Network first reported. The Giants also cut running back Rashad Jennings.
Cruz, 30, had two years left on his contract and was due to count $9.4 million against the salary cap next season. His release will save the Giants $7.5 million in cap space.
After missing the better part of two seasons with injuries, Cruz returned to the field in 2016 and caught 39 passes for 586 yards and one touchdown.
A native of Paterson, New Jersey, Cruz joined the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts in 2010. A year later, he had become a fan favorite due to his local ties, his huge on-field production and his signature salsa-dancing touchdown celebrations.
Cruz caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns in helping the Giants win the Super Bowl in 2011. He followed that up with 86 receptions for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns in a 2012 Pro Bowl season.
Cruz’s career, however, was the never same after Oct. 12, 2014, when he suffered a season-ending patellar tendon tear. A calf injury then sidelined him for all of 2015.
In his return this past season — a Week 1 win at Dallas — Cruz caught a TD pass, an exclamation point to his long rehab process. But with young wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard taking over as the focal points of the Giants’ passing game, Cruz eventually grew frustrated with his role in the offense. After not being targeted in a Week 12 loss at Pittsburgh, he told reporters: “I’m going to talk to somebody. Somebody’s got to give me an answer as to why.”
Last offseason, Cruz agreed to have his salary cut from $7.9 million to $1.3 million. The New York Post reported that he was not asked to restructure his contract this time around.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Cruz said. “I pretty much grew up in front of the eyes of this entire organization. The Giants fan base, the community, my hometown, my family. I grew up there. It’s very much a family atmosphere and it’s very much like leaving your family.
Cruz said he’s not considering retirement.
“I think I have a lot of good football left ahead of me,” he said. “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 ranks 10th in Giants history in both receptions (303) and receiving yards (4,549).
“Victor is one of the great stories of the National Football League,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese said in a news release. “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.”
Jennings, who turns 32 next month, was set to count more than $3 million against the salary cap next season. His release will save the team $2.5 million in cap space.
Jennings was signed as a free agent in 2014 and was the Giants’ leading rusher the past two seasons. In 2016, he rushed for 593 yards and three touchdowns, but averaged just 3.3 yards per carry.
“Rashad is a pro’s pro, on and off the field,” Reese said. “He came to work every day and did everything we asked him to do, and always worked extra to get better at his craft.”
Said Jennings: “It’s an honor to play here, playing for a team that has so much history, a team that falls under great leadership and high character.”
“It’s part of the game. It’s unfortunate,” he added. “After a couple of days, I’m going to be excited for the next leg and opportunity that I get.”
The Giants had the NFL’s 29th-ranked rushing offense last season. With Jennings out of the picture, the team will likely give a greater role to second-year running back Paul Perkins. The Giants also have Shane Vereen under contract, and George Winn and Orleans Darkwa are restricted free agents.