Salary Cap: Time for Giants to Cut Victor Cruz & Others
By Michael Stewart
The New York Giants will have roughly $32M to $40M in cap space available if the NFL raises the cap to $168M and that amount could increase if GM Jerry Reese decides to release fan favorite WR Victor Cruz and other current players; such as RB Rashad Jennings, RB Shane Vereen, LB J.T Thomas & CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Last off-season, Cruz and Thomas were willing to restructure their contracts to avoid being released and that might be the route Reese takes again. However; with key FA pending for the Giants this off-season (Jonathan Hankins and Jason Pierre-Paul) GM Reese might have to release all the above mentioned without any options at all. Let’s take a look at each player and see whether or not releasing them makes the most sense:
- Victor Cruz (WR)
The Giants worked out a pay cut with Cruz in 2016 and could do the same this year. However; if Reese decides to move on from Cruz; the Giants would save $7.5M in cap space. The depth at the wide receiver position is solid for the Giants as WR’s Roger Lewis & Tavarres King have equally shown the ability to produce and not to mention Darius Powe, who spent time on the Giants practice squad and also impressed the Giants staff. Also, the emergence of rookie WR Sterling Shepard and the ability to play the slot receiver successfully, along with the draft and FA targets has only added to Cruz possible release. Verdict: Cut
- Rashad Jennings (RB)
RB Rashad Jennings has seen his playing time decline over the final 4 games of the season and the playoff game as rookie RB Paul Perkins has emerged as the Giants featured RB. Consequently, the Giants running game improved with the insertion of Perkins as the feature back. Now the Giants could save $2.5M on Jennings, who only has $562K of dead money if released. However; the Giants might be inclined to keep Jennings as his contract is relatively cheap in today’s football world and would provide solid backup. Verdict: Cut
- Shane Vereen (RB)
Shane Vereen is a gifted player and if utilized properly, could excel with the Giants. However; 2016 saw him endure two surgeries on his triceps and miss most of the season. Cutting him would save the Giants $3.7M in cap space as his trade value is probably low at this point. If the Giants are committed to Perkins and view RB Orleans Darkwa as a affordable RB to add depth, along with drafting a RB in this year’s draft. We could see Vereen be expendable. Verdict: Cut
- J.T Thomas (LB)
Thomas took a pay cut in 2016 and then had a season ending injury in the 1st game. It’s highly unlikely that Reese will take that route again with him as the Giants would save $3M in cap space by cutting him. Of the 5 players mentioned, Thomas has had the least productive and is highly expendable. Finding a replacement to fill his roster spot will not be hard. Verdict: Cut
- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB)
Out of all the possible players who could/should be cut; DRC should be the least likely for several reasons.
- Had an outstanding season as the Giants slot cover man
- His absence in the playoff game (injury) was evident.
- Lead the team in INTS
- Giants history of injuries to the secondary
- Leadership in the secondary
The Giants can go in several directions regarding DRC as they can cut him and save $4.5M (pre June 1st) or save $6.5M (post June 1st). They could also look to trade him as DRC goes have value and still has 2 years remaining on a relatively team friendly contract. Lastly, the Giants could just decide to keep him as the Giants do lack depth at the CB position once you get past Eli Apple & Janoris Jenkins and finally; we all know the injury history of the Giants secondary. Verdict: Retain
Final Thoughts: I have always been a big Victor Cruz fan, but I also understand that football is a business first and foremost. The success of the Giants season in 2016 was clearly the much improved defense; which GM Jerry Reese committed over $208M to five players alone. That is the main reason why the Giants made the playoffs for the 1st time since 2011, so retaining a key element from that defensive squad should be essential. With the additional cuts mentioned above, GM Jerry Reese would have roughly $48.7 or $56.7 (depending on the NFL cap results) to work with to improve this team and keep them competitive as playoff contenders.