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Victor Cruz, New York Giants (September 11, 2016)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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The New York Giants have released wide receiver Victor Cruz and running back Rashad Jennings, both of whom are coming off of disappointing seasons. Cruz was set to count $9.4 million against the 2017 NFL salary cap. By cutting him, the Giants saved $7.5 million against the cap with $1.9 million in dead money. Jennings was set to count $3,062,500 against the the cap. By cutting him, the Giants saved $2.5 million with $562,500 in dead money. In all, the Giants saved $10 million against the cap.

In his seven seasons with the Giants, Cruz played in 70 regular-season games with 53 starts, becoming the franchise’s tenth-leading receiver of all time with 303 receptions for 4,549 and 25 touchdowns. However, in 15 regular-season games in 2016, Cruz caught just 39 passes for 586 yards and one touchdown.

Signed as a rookie free agent after the 2010 NFL Draft, the rags-to-riches Victor Cruz story is well known, culminating with his impact season in 2011, first Pro Bowl in 2012, and big offseason contract in 2013. In 2011-2012, Cruz compiled 168 catches for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns. But Cruz suffered three lower-leg injuries that seemed to rob him of his quickness, including arthroscopic knee surgery in 2013, career-threatening patellar tendon knee injury in 2014, and a calf injury that required surgery in 2015.

“Victor is one of the great stories of the National Football League,” said General Manager Jerry Reese. “He came in here and earned everything that he’s gotten. It has been amazing to see him grow from an undrafted free agent to a Pro Bowl player and one of our go-to guys during the Super Bowl XLVI run. He will always be one of the great Giants.”

“It’s been an amazing journey,” Cruz said. “I pretty much grew up in front of the eyes of this entire organization. The Giants fan base, the community, my hometown, my family. I grew up there. It’s very much a family atmosphere and it’s very much like leaving your family. That’s what it feels like. I did some great things there. There are so many experiences, times and moments that I shared in that building with that team in that jersey. Those can’t be replaced or forgotten. I’m happy I have those moments to look back on.

“I’m going to miss the people there. Those are the guys that you see day in and day out. Those are the guys that you go to war with and see every day. That’s the family. Those are the people that you look up to, look at, see every day and are most excited about. I definitely miss those guys. I had the chance to see them today before I left the building. I was there for an hour or two just talking to everyone. It’s a good feeling. They’ll always be family. People like that, when you know them that long, they don’t go anywhere.”

In his three seasons with the Giants, Jennings played in 40 regular-season games with 37 starts. During that time, he carried the ball 543 times for 2,095 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 94 passes for 723 yards and two touchdowns. However, Jennings saw his production drop dramatically in 2016 after having his most productive year in the NFL in 2015. Jennings’ rushing yards (from 863 to 593) and yards per carry (from 4.4 to 3.3) fell precipitously with only three rushing touchdowns in each season. Jennings did catch six more passes (from 29 to 35) but his yards per catch dropped nearly in half (from 10.2 to 5.7).

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (December 27, 2015)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jennings was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2013 and the Giants in 2014. Jennings missed five games with the Giants in 2014 due to knee and ankle problems. He started all 16 games in 2015, but missed three games in 2016 with a thumb injury.

“Rashad is a pro’s pro, on and off the field,” Reese said. “He came to work every day and did everything we asked him to do, and always worked extra to get better at his craft.”

“It’s an honor to play here, playing for a team that has so much history, a team that falls under great leadership and high character,” Jennings said. “In the mecca of everything, the relationships I’ve built are priceless. The people, the fans, teammates, ownership, I’ve been blessed to play with the Giants and see that side of the NFL. I have nothing but good things to say.

“I’m happy I was able to (make the playoffs for the first time in my career),” Jennings said. “I know under the leadership of coach (Ben) McAdoo that the Giants are going to be there again next year. I already talked to all my running backs. They all called me and thanked me. As soon as the word gets out, probably all of my teammates are going to call me and encourage me. It’s part of the game. It’s unfortunate. After a couple of days, I’m going to be excited for the next leg and opportunity that I get. For the 17th game, that put more of a drive in me. To have a taste for the 17th game and make the playoffs put more of a drive in me to train harder and make sure I’m there again next year, wherever I’m at.”

Both Cruz and Jennings hope to continue playing in the NFL.

“I think I have a lot of good football left ahead of me,” Cruz said. “I think there is still a lot of miles left on this body. I’ll definitely be searching and looking for work as the time comes.”

“That’s the least of my worries,” Jennings said. “When (Jerry Reese) called me, I was in the gym. I’m in Florida right now training. I had to step out to talk to him. He said, ‘I didn’t expect anything less for you to be training right now.’ He encouraged me, ‘that’s why you can continue to play. You take care of your body and do the little things.’ I know me and my skillset that I bring to the table. I have more football left in me. I’m a vet, a leader, a motivator, can do anything. I finished the league in the top five in pass protection. I can catch out the backfield, run the ball, play special teams and I want to win the championship. Yes, I have more football left.”


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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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