Victor Cruz is no longer looking for NFL work. He's heading to the city that was once known as the place "where receivers go to die."
On Thursday, the former Giants wideout agreed to terms with the Bears, according to Kimberly Jones and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
The #Bears are signing former #Giants WR Victor Cruz to a 1-year deal, per @KimJonesSports and me. He has a new home.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 25, 2017
New #Bears WR Victor Cruz has an agreement in principle with CHI. May not actually sign for a few days. But a fresh opportunity for a reboot— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 25, 2017
The Bears certainly needed help at receiver. They let star pass catcher Alshon Jeffery leave for Philadelphia this offseason. Their first-round pick in 2015, Kevin White, has appeared in just four games in two seasons. Their top receiver is Cameron Meredith, who successfully made the transition from college quarterback to NFL receiver. The addition of Cruz won't transform the Bears' receiving group, but it does bolster the depth of a committee that will catch passes from Mike Glennon until Mitchell Trubisky is ready to take over.
Cruz, who went undrafted, joins the Bears after making pointed comments in a radio interview that the Giants phased him out of their offense to make it easier to cut him. He spent seven seasons with the Giants where he had two 1,000-yard campaigns sandwiched around injuries that eventually derailed his career in New York.
Set to make $7.4 million next season, the team released Cruz in February. In a recent appearance on 105.1 FM, Cruz suggested that the Giants made a conscious decision to not throw the ball in his direction last season to make it easier to dump him.
"I felt it all year long. Halfway through the year I'm ballin', the other half I'm not getting the ball. And you're just like, 'what's going on?' It was like 'OK, I see what's happening," Cruz explained. "They don't want me here anymore.' A lot of people probably don't know this. ...Let's say I played well -- was a 1,000-yard receiver last year -- it would have been more difficult from a fan perspective to cut me."
"If I am a 1,000-yard guy, they're like 'why are you cutting Cruz? He just 1,000 yards and five or six touchdowns. That doesn't make sense.' But if I have 500 yards or whatever the case may be, it's a little easier on the fans."
Cruz played in 15 games last season but caught just 39 passes for 586 yards and a lone touchdown. In terms of receptions, Cruz ranked fourth on the team behind Odell Beckham (101 catches), Sterling Shepard (65) and Will Tye (48).
Cruz had his coming-out party in 2011, when he finished with 82 receptions for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. He logged another 1,000-plus-yard season in 2012, but a serious knee injury ended his 2014 season after just six games, and he missed all of the 2015 season. He returned in 2016 but wasn't nearly as dynamic, partly because he was sharing the field with the aforementioned Beckham and Shepard.
Conspiracy or not, Cruz is now 30 and no longer a legit No. 1 wide receiver. Still, he remains unconvinced of the Giants' motives.
"If I played well, they owed me a ton of money that next year," he said. "So it was like, 'let's get Cruz off the books.' "
That said, Cruz doesn't believe Manning was in on the plan to minimize his touches last season.
"It's hard to believe," Cruz said. "Even just to think about someone coming up to the quarterback and saying 'hey, don't throw it here' or 'don't give it to this guy' -- it's hard to even fathom that thought. Which I don't even know or think happens. I doubt it. But when you look at the film and look at how it goes down, it's the only way."