Over the last three seasons, the New York Giants’ receiving tandem of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz has posed a serious challenge for opposing defenses. Unfortunately, Nicks’ impending free agency will likely separate the lethal duo which has combined for 6,406 receiving yards and 33 touchdowns.
Both sides have voiced their wishes to keep Nicks in New York, but the reality is that making that happen would not be financially or organizationally feasible. True, the Giants should have approximately $20 million to spend this offseason, per NJ.com’s Jordan Ranaan, however an abundance of needs will require Big Blue’s attention before they should pay a lump sum to another receiver—they gave Cruz a hefty five-year $43 million contract last summer.
The Giants will have 27 free agents this offseason, including Nicks, and they will have to sort out which of those players they’d like to re-sign. Then, of course, there are the draft picks they’ll select in the 2014 NFL draft.
They should still have the money available to lock Nicks up for the long term with a major contract—as he will likely command—but a decline in production and injury history should move him down their list of top priorities with needs throughout their roster (excluding quarterback).
In the short term, losing Nicks may hurt. There is no denying the threat he poses every time he steps on the field, even when unhealthy. Opposing defenses have had much to compensate for with both Nicks and Cruz on the field and, as a result, the Giants had a lot of success offensively through the air in 2011 and 2012.
While Cruz is a major big-play threat, Nicks is a key contributor in the red zone due to his size and ball skills. The Giants didn’t have a ton of success in the red zone this season—they finished 30th in the league, scoring a touchdown on 47.22 percent of their trips into the red zone—but Nicks’ production will be sorely missed inside the 20-yard line. Granted, he didn’t score a single touchdown this season, he averaged just under seven a season in his four NFL seasons.
Cruz is adamant the Giants can be successful without Nicks and maybe he’s right. But Nicks impending departure is going to hurt, regardless of the offensive weapons the G-Men may add this offseason.
With new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo coming to town, it would be interesting to see what kind of magic his expected scheme—one that is most successful with a plethora of talented pass catchers—could create with Nicks and Cruz out wide. Sadly, it appears more likely Nicks’ tenure as a New York Giant has already come to a close.