The New York Giants released wide receiver Victor Cruz earlier today, leading to plenty of discussion surrounding his next landing spot. The 30-year old has faced a bleak future in New York for a while now..and that foreshadowing has now become a reality. The Eagles need help at wide receiver and naturally the dots have been connected. But pursuing the veteran wideout would be a move that completely contradicts the new direction that the team are headed.
The definition of an undrafted superstar, Cruz landed in New York back in 2010 and after salsa dancing his way into the record books with 1,536 receiving yards back in 2011, the future seemed to be stunningly bright. A 1,000 yard season followed and he fell just two yards shy in 2013. Had he not picked up a knee injury, he likely would have had his third consecutive 1,000 yard year.
However in 2014 that light began to fade. With a torn patellar tendon followed by calf surgery, Cruz would miss a total of 26 games over the next two seasons, finally returning in 2016..despite many considering his career to be nearing an end. Upon his return, he was greeted with Odell Beckham Jr and Sterling Shepard..two receivers priming themselves to finish what Cruz started back in his rookie year.
2016 was a much quieter year for Cruz..but he still caught 39 passes for a total of 586 yards and a touchdown. The problem is that even though Cruz still showed some of the traits that made him so dominant in the early stages of his career, the explosiveness lacked. The veteran became a bigger option for Manning working out of the slot..but he caught under 55% of his passes, which isn’t exactly reassuring for the Eagles who have struggled with drops over the last few years.
Then comes the next dilemma. The Eagles need playmakers on the outside and Cruz has now been relegated to a slot role. The strongest receiver on the Birds’ roster happens to be Jordan Matthews, the team’s prominent slot threat. Doug Pederson alluded to moving Matthews outside and using his versatility, but training camp and preseason both showed that his true strength lied in making big plays over the middle and acting as a mismatch nightmare. Moving the 24-year old Matthews outside to then include a 30-year old receiver who has alarming durability concerns simply doesn’t make sense for a team trying to build for the future.
As much as the resilience of Cruz is inspiring and his heart something that could touch the players on the current roster, the Eagles would be placing all of their chips on a receiver who never quite rekindled the form he established when he first entered the league. The Eagles have become younger and more dynamic over the last twelve months..but signing Cruz would not just limit the production from the slot, but also harm the workload and results of Jordan Matthews, who would be forced into an outside role.
The Eagles are naturally expected to make a push for some veteran help at wide receiver during free agency. Someone with plenty of experience who has proven himself throughout his career, still carrying a high ceiling and acting as a mentor to the younger players. Stability is crucial for the growth of Carson Wentz..and it’s a word that simply does not associate with Victor Cruz.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports