INDIANAPOLIS -- A year ago at the NFL combine, New York Giants GM Jerry Reese said the team was hopeful of getting wide receiver Victor Cruz back from the knee injury that ended his 2014 season but that they couldn't count on him. Reese's words were prescient, as a calf injury in training camp wrecked Cruz's recovery and cost him the entire 2015 season.
In an interview this week with USA Today, Cruz estimated his chances of returning to the Giants in 2016 at "80 percent," which feels about right to me. The Giants will want to rework Cruz's contract and reduce his $7.9 million salary and his $9.9 million cap figure. He knows this and is amenable, as his estimate suggests. But as of now, the Giants have the cap flexibility to wait out Cruz's recovery a bit and assess his value a little deeper into the offseason before settling on a figure.
The question, when deciding what to pay Cruz, is what kind of player the Giants can expect him to be. By the time the 2016 season starts, he'll have gone nearly 23 months without playing in a real NFL game. His knee injury was a torn patellar tendon, which is more severe than the more common ACL tear, and questions remain about whether he'll have the same type of explosiveness he had earlier in his career.
As was the case a year ago, the Giants can hope for a Cruz return but cannot count on it. They have a clear No. 1 wide receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. and are likely to let Rueben Randle leave as a free agent, which means they have to be in the market. They took a flier last week and signed French receiver Anthony Dable, who at this point looks as if he'll have a chance to compete for a role. And Dwayne Harris and Geremy Davis likely factor into the plans at least somewhat, though Harris is more of a No. 3 and Davis is an unknown after a rookie season in which he didn't see much action.
Expect the Giants to operate their offseason plan at receiver with Cruz in the back of their minds, but to pursue help at the position on the assumption that they won't have him. That's the only way they can handle it right now until they see him play.