When we discuss the impending free agent market, we're mostly talking about unrestricted free agents, where players' former teams have no control over those players' decisions. We haven't spent too much time discussing restricted free agents, but as the NFL.com's Ian Rapoport points out, Victor Cruz is an interesting discussion.
“The New York Giants slot receiver will almost certainly receive a first-round tender if the team can't work out a long-term deal with him,” Rapoport writes. “And from what I hear, there is already a ton of interest and plenty of teams just waiting for their opening.”
I imagine there would be plenty of interest. The last two seasons, the undrafted free agent slot receiver has averaged 84 catches per year to go with an average of 1,314 yards and 9.5 touchdowns. He salsas and he stars in soup commercials, and he's a pretty darn good player. A first-round tender, if it's not matched, would cost the Giants $2.88 million for 2013.
But if another team is willing to give him a multi-year deal that the Giants won't match and then give up a first-round draft pick to New York, Cruz would be available.
As we pointed out, though, in our Giants free agency preview, the team wants to sign him to a new contract to keep him away from the rest of the league.
Making matters better for Cruz is that the free agent receiver class this offseason is hardly spectacular. The only receivers in Cruz's class that might hit free agency are Mike Wallace, Wes Welker and Greg Jennings (Danny Amendola also is a slot receiver). That means Cruz probably has leverage against the Giants, who have until Tuesday to sign him to a long-term deal.
“We want Victor to be a Giant until the end of his career, but obviously he and his people, his agents, they've got to make that call,” coach Tom Coughlin told the Newark Star Ledger. “It's a little bit frustrating in that you'd like to have it done, that's all."
Asked if he thought Cruz would be around for 2013, Coughlin said, “I think so.”
If not, the restricted free agent's process could get awfully fascinating -- and he could make himself a lot more money.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Josh Katzowitz on Twitter here: @joshkatzowitz.