GREEN BAY, Wisc. - Victor Cruz insisted he never once thought that he might have been playing his last game as a Giant on Sunday, even though he surely knows there's a good chance that he was.
But with his future up in the air now that the Giants' season is over, Cruz made it clear he wants to return to the only team he's ever known.
"Absolutely," Cruz said after the Giants' 38-13 wild-card loss to the Packers. "This is family. This is home. I don't know anywhere else. I don't want to know anywhere else."
He may not have a choice, of course, because of the cold business of football and the reality that he's 30 years old coming off a mediocre season. He made a remarkable comeback, of course, after missing nearly two full years and undergoing surgery on his knee and calf. Just returning to play at all was quite a triumph.
But he clearly wasn't the same player. He caught just 39 passes for 586 yards and his only touchdown catch came in the season opener. At times he split snaps with undrafted rookie Roger Lewis. And having lost some of the speed and quickness that made him so dangerous in his prime, he was moved out of the slot and played mostly on the outside.
On Sunday at Lambeau, Cruz -- who was one of the four Giants receivers who famously made an off-day trip to party in Miami last Monday -- had three catches for 30 yards. Overall, his numbers simply weren't good enough to justify the $6.4 million salary (and $9.4 million salary cap number) he's due next season.
It is possible that he'd be willing to accept another massive paycut -- much like the roughly $6 million cut he accepted to return for 2016. But a team source said the Giants are concerned that Cruz -- and the receiving corps in general -- didn't do enough to draw double teams and attention away from star receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. this season. They may decide to move on to someone younger and faster. There's also some desire for a bigger target on the outside.
Cruz is actually signed through the 2018 season, when the five-year, $43 million contract he signed in 2014 finally ends. If the Giants cut Cruz he would still count for $1.9 million in salary cap space, but that would be a savings of $7.5 million -- more than enough for the Giants to sign his replacement.
Cruz is due a $1 million roster bonus in early March, so any decision on his future would likely be made before then.