Victor Cruz: All-Pro efforts deserve raise

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Victor Cruz's star continues to shine brighter than the Empire State Building at night.

In the aftermath of the Super Bowl, Cruz has appeared on Jimmy Fallon's late night show and he will be doing a promo for Nike and will even present a Grammy with teammate Mario Manningham. Pretty soon, the New York Giants will have to pay their wide receiver like a star as well.

After completing a magical season that saw him shatter the franchise record for most receiving yards in a season, Cruz, 25, has outplayed the contract he signed as an undrafted free agent from UMass trying to make the team back in 2010 and even prior to the 2011 season. He is scheduled to earn $490,000 this coming season -- the final year of his contract.

The humble receiver from Paterson, N.J., wasn't too comfortable answering questions about his contract situation but does acknowledge that he eventually hopes to be compensated for leading the team in receiving with 82 receptions for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns.

"Honestly, with what I did this year, statistically and the records and everything like that, obviously I feel like just looking at the top players in the league and looking at what I did this year, I feel like naturally there should be an increase in pay," Cruz said while signing autographs at Steiner Sports.

Cruz finished behind only Detroit's Calvin Johnson and New England's Wes Welker in receiving yards this season and had five touchdowns of 65 yards or longer, second most in a season in NFL history.

"My agents and guys like that will work out all that stuff," he said. "I will take care of the football aspect and those guys will take care of the contract."

General manager Jerry Reese said the team is still in the early stages of evaluating players and management has not discussed anything "with respect to salaries."

He did say that players wanting a raise after winning the Super Bowl is a "good problem" to have since it comes with a Lombardi trophy.

"You win the Super Bowl and if everybody thinks they're the reason we won -- that's a good problem to have," Reese said. "That means you won it. It's just part of the offseason. There are always contract issues in the offseason. That's what the offseason is. You have to deal with contracts and things with your roster -- who's going to stay, who's going to go."

Reese said the Giants are always trying to keep an eye on not just this coming season but how moves will impact the team down the road.

The Giants will have some decisions to make with their receivers. Mario Manningham, who had the huge 38-yard catch in the fourth quarter that helped set up the game-winning touchdown against the Patriots, is a free agent. Hakeem Nicks also is entering the second to last season of his contract.

"It's important," Nicks said of keeping the receivers together.

The Giants will want to lock up their biggest playmaker this past season. Cruz, 25, may have saved the Giants season with a 99-yard touchdown against the Jets that helped start the six-game winning streak that ended with the Super Bowl victory. He also had a 74-yard touchdown in the final game of the regular season to help the Giants clinch the NFC East and a berth into the playoffs. In the NFC Championship, he had 10 catches for 142 yards and he scored a touchdown in the first half of the Super Bowl win against New England.

He started to face more added defensive pressure as the season progressed. Cruz saw double teams in the slot against the Patriots and knows he will see a lot more next season.

"We understand that teams are going to know about me now and not really be naïve to, 'oh, he is just good this game or that game,'" Cruz said. "Just a matter of understanding where the double teams are coming from and understanding how they are trying to play me."

Cruz hopes to do plenty more salsa touchdown celebrations next season. His end zone dance became a huge hit to the point where Madonna even did a Cruz salsa impression during her news conference to talk about her Super Bowl halftime show.

Cruz will again cross over into the music entertainment industry when he and Manningham present at the Grammys.

"That's pretty sick," he said of the honor. "I think myself and Mario are doing it for best duo."

Cruz, though, says he won't let all the success and exploding fame change who he is and spoil him.

"I don't know what makes me so cool that they want me to do all this stuff," he said. "It's just a lot of fun. Anytime you win a Super Bowl, there's a lot of stuff that comes with it. After that, it is just being the same old you, taking the same old garbage out of my mother's house, doing the same old things."

"It is safe to say that I will not be spoiled by success," he added. "Especially when I have the type of mother that I have that won't allow that."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.