Victor Cruz will surely retire as a Giant someday, probably right before he's inducted into the team's Ring of Honor. It will be a very emotional moment and a celebration of his legacy. The Giants will be thrilled to welcome him back home.
But not today.
For now, the 30-year-old Cruz is intent on continuing his career, even though he knows the checkered history of former Giants trying to prolong their careers elsewhere. From Cruz's perspective he's just not done. In fact, since he's healthy for the first offseason in three years, he believes last season could turn out to be just the beginning of a late career revival.
"I think I have a lot of good football left ahead of me," Cruz said in a press release on Monday, shortly after he was released by the Giants. "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."
Will his time come again, though? Is there a market for a 30-year-old slot receiver, slowed by two serious injuries and surgeries (knee and calf), and coming off a disappointing season where he caught just 39 passes for 586 yards and a touchdown in 15 games?
The Denver Broncos are reportedly already trying to arrange a visit with the free agent, and other teams will surely follow over the next few weeks (and maybe months). Chances are, Cruz will have to take a one-year deal with a (relatively) low salary and minimal guarantees, maybe even mostly incentives, so he can re-establish his worth.
But where? Here's a look at some potential landing spots for the once and future Giant:
Denver Broncos - They get the top spot thanks to an ESPN report that said the Broncos "were already working Monday to at least meet with" Cruz. The Broncos, who remain in win-now mode despite their issues at quarterback, are in need of a third receiver behind Demaryius Thomas (90-1,083-5) and Emmanuel Sanders (79-1,032-5). No other Broncos receiver caught more than 21 passes.
Carolina Panthers - Panthers GM Dave Gettleman was the Giants' pro personnel director when Cruz made the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2010, though he's also smart enough to know that was a long time ago. The Panthers do need a slot receiver, though, and they had success with an over-30 Jerricho Cotchery there in 2014-15.
Philadelphia Eagles - They have a promising, young quarterback and a very questionable corps of receivers. They'd prefer younger players, but they don't really have the cap space to pursue the top receivers on the market. Cruz could be a cheap option who could mentor their young receivers, too. The only problem here is they have a slot receiver in Jordan Matthews, unless they choose to move their 24-year-old top receiver to the outside.
Buffalo Bills - The Bills are probably going to lose Robert Woods, their best option at slot receiver, to free agency and they will be desperate to have someone help out their oft-injured star receiver, Sammy Watkins. They have a new coach (Sean McDermott) and may have a new quarterback, so an inexpensive veteran receiver wouldn't be the worst thing to add.
Jacksonville Jaguars - You know Tom Coughlin has a soft spot for Cruz, and his rebuilding project in Jacksonville could use all the help he can get. They do have a trio of talented, but inconsistent receivers in Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, and Allen Hurns. If Cruz is willing to be the fourth guy and an occasional slot receiver, it's not the worst idea for either side.
Tennessee Titans - They have a promising young quarterback in Marcus Mariota, a strong running game backed by running back DeMarco Murray, and a dismal passing offense with uninspiring receivers. Their best two receivers -- Rishard Matthews (65-945-9) and Tajae Sharpe (41-522-2) are better suited to the outside. Kendall Wright, their best option at slot receiver, is a free agent and has already said he'd want to sign elsewhere. Sounds like Cruz could be a smart, short-term fix.
New England Patriots - It's not like the Patriots need a slot receiver, not with Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola on the roster, and tight ends (like Rob Gronkowski) or running backs (like James White) often being used as a weapon out of the slot. But wouldn't it be just like Bill Belichick to rescue Cruz off the NFL's scrap heap and find a way to make it work?