Victor Cruz made a remarkable comeback this season, nearly two full years after suffering a devastating knee injury and one year after needing surgery on his calf. He caught 39 passes for 586 yards and one opening-day touchdown while serving essentially as the Giants' No. 3 receiver.
Cruz, 30, took a pay cut from the Giants as a condition of his return in 2016, but he's due $7.4 million in 2017 and carries a salary cap number of $9.4 million. He's signed through 2018 (at another $8.4 million that season), but the Giants could clear $7.5 million by cutting him now.
So, should he stay or should he go?
Cruz remains one of the most popular players on the Giants, both in the locker room and among fans. He did make some big plays this past season and could be a valuable mentor to both the young Sterling Shepard and the volatile Odell Beckham, Jr. But is he worth one of the largest cap numbers on the team?
The case for retaining Cruz:
Getting 39 catches and 586 yards out of a third receiver isn't bad, and could be even better if he ends up as the fourth receiver.
This season was his first one back after two major injuries and surgeries. It's possible his numbers will improve with a full, healthy offseason to work out instead of just rehabilitation.
The Giants' receiving corps is young and immature and Beckham has not proven capable of being a leader. Cruz's voice could be missed.
With Cruz gone, the Giants would have to add a receiver or turn his job over to Tavarres King or Roger Lewis, neither of whom have proven over time they can handle a larger role.
The case for letting him go:
He'll be 31 years old in November and, after two surgeries, it's not likely he's going to get his old speed or elusiveness back.
In his best seasons he was slippery -- terrific at avoiding coverage or escaping tight coverage. In 2016 he simply wasn't open enough.
The amount of cap room his release would create is too big to pass up for a team with a lot of needs at expensive positions (like defensive end and left tackle).
His leadership is respected, but he raised a few eyebrows in the organization when he joined the rest of the Giants' receivers on their pre-playoff party trip to Miami.
The writing was on the wall a year ago when he was forced to take a pay cut of more than $6 million to return. That gave him a chance to prove his worth, but his production didn't justify his 2017 salary. He certainly could be offered another massive pay cut -- and might take it. But at his age and coming off his injuries, the Giants aren't likely to get more out of him than they just got.
He's been a wonderful story, had an excellent career, and will always rank among many people's all-time favorite Giants. But all good things must come to an end, and the Giants are more likely to seek out younger, fresher, healthier legs at his position.