The first cap casualties of the New York Giants offseason have finally been revealed. Victor Cruz was informed on Monday afternoon that he was being released from his contract with the Giants.
The news of Cruz’s release was first reported by Art Stapleton of The Record, where Rashad Jennings release was reported by Jordan Raanan of ESPN. These moves are not much of a surprise, especially with how expensive both players come at. Cutting Cruz saves the Giants up to $9.5 million against the salary cap next season, whereas cutting Jennings saves the Giants $3 million against the salary cap. With needs on the offensive line and the goal of re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul and Jonathan Hankins, these cuts had to be made. Especially to build off of their 11-5 2016 season.
Cruz is coming off a lackluster season, only recording 39 receptions for 586 yards and one touchdown. This is both a result of Cruz watching his targets decrease, instead going to Odell Beckham Jr and Sterling Shepard. Ever since Shepard got drafted last offseason, the writing was on the wall for Cruz. Cruz spent most of his career in the slot position, but now saw time, uncharacteristically on the outside, with Shepard showing more upside in the slot.
Cruz also saw time on the sideline, with wide receivers Roger Lewis and Tavarres King getting targets, especially deep down the field. The story of the season for Cruz was that Cruz would get a big 15-20 yard catch in the beginning of the game, and then was silent for the remainder of the game.
Giants fans will always have fond memories of Cruz, especially during his 2011 season, where he played a key role in the Giants’ Super Bowl XLVI championship run.
“Victor is one of the great stories of the National Football League,” said Giants General Manager Jerry Reese. “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 also is coming of a below average season, rushing for 593 yards on 181 attempts for three touchdowns. On top of that, Jennings only had five games, out of 13, where he rushed for over 50 yards. It can be attributed to a terrible offensive line, but it just seemed that Jennings could not cut his way through the defense. A lot of those times saw Jennings stopped behind the line of scrimmage.
In previous seasons, Jennings was a true force in the backfield, showing explosive strength and speed.
“Rashad is a pro’s pro, on and off the field,” said Reese. “He came to work every day and did everything we asked him to do, and always worked extra to get better at his craft.”
Jennings fate was also sealed by the emergence of a young player from the draft, Paul Perkins. Perkins entered the spotlight late in the season, taking carries away from Jennings, due to the fact that Perkins was the most effective running back on the team. With the rise of Paul Perkins up the depth chart, to a returning Shane Vereen, there just wasn’t a spot left for Jennings, who came as a hefty price.
Entering the offseason, it wasn’t a matter of if the Giants would cut Cruz and Jennings. It was a matter of when. The possibility of Cruz and Jennings could be re-signed at a cheaper price.
As of this writing, both are ex-Giants and most fans will be intent on which teams will pick them up. The memories that each player had will forever stick in Giants fans’ minds.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” said Cruz. “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. That’s what it feels like. I did some great things there. There are so many experiences, times and moments that I shared in that building with that team in that jersey. Those can’t be replaced or forgotten. I’m happy I have those moments to look back on.”
“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,” said Jennings. “In the mecca of everything, the relationships I’ve built are priceless. The people, the fans, teammates, ownership, I’ve been blessed to play with the Giants and see that side of the NFL. I have nothing but good things to say.”