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Victor Cruz claims Giants didn’t target him in 2016 so he’d be easy to cut in the offseason

“When you look at the film, when you look at how it goes down, it’s the only way.”

NFL: New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Victor Cruz is the newest member of the Chicago Bears, switching teams for the first time in his NFL career after he was released by the New York Giants in February. Three months after the team cut ties, Cruz tossed out accusations that the team intentionally limited his targets to make releasing him in the offseason more palatable.

“I felt it all year long,” Cruz said Tuesday morning on Breakfast Club Power 105.1 FM. “Halfway through the year, you’re like ‘Ok, I’m ballin,’ and then the other half I’m not getting the ball and you’re just like ‘Well, what’s going on?’ Then I was like ‘Ok, I see what’s happening. They don’t want me here anymore.’

“Let’s say I played well and I was a 1,000-yard receiver last year; it would’ve been more difficult from a fan perspective to cut me. If I’m a 1,000-yard guy, they’re like ‘Well why are you cutting Cruz? He just had 1,000 yards, he had five or six touchdowns. That doesn’t make sense.’ But if I have about 500 yards or whatever the case may be, it’s a little easier on the fans to be like ‘Oh, he didn’t play well, so that’s why they cut him.’”

Cruz, 30, posted 245 yards and one touchdown in the first four games of the season. But he caught another touchdown and put up only 161 yards in the last six games of the year. After averaging 5.86 targets per game before the team’s Week 8 bye, Cruz was targeted just 3.88 times per game in his last eight games.

The Giants offense struggled to get going for most of the year, finishing No. 26 in points and No. 25 in total yards. Cruz also played opposite one of the NFL’s best young receivers, Odell Beckham Jr., and had to fight off the contributions of 2016 second-round pick Sterling Shepard.

Cruz also has a lengthy injury history. He was never quite the same player he was before a knee injury, and later a calf injury, cost him almost two entire seasons.

But the drop in targets in the second half of the season was still puzzling enough that Cruz voiced his frustrations in December after he wasn’t thrown to once in a 24-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Still, why would the Giants be interested in submarining the stock of a fan favorite like Cruz just to get him off the team?

“If I played well, they owed me a ton of money that next year, so it was like ‘Let’s get Cruz off the books.’”

Cruz was due to make $6.4 million in base salary and receive a $1.9 million signing bonus in 2017. Only four players — Eli Manning, Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, and Damon Harrison — were due to count more against the cap than Cruz.

But the accusation from Cruz implies that Manning intentionally threw to other wide receiver options, despite the fact that Cruz claimed he was open far more often than his numbers would suggest.

“It’s hard to believe, even just to think about someone coming up to the quarterback and saying ‘Hey, don’t throw it here or don’t give it to this guy,’” Cruz said. “It’s hard to fathom that thought which I don’t even know or think happens. I doubt it. But when you look at the film, when you look at how it goes down, it’s the only way.”

It does seem ridiculous to suggest Manning wouldn’t pass to Cruz and try to get a struggling offense going just so he could help the Giants save $7.5 million in the offseason. Giants coach Ben McAdoo brushed off Cruz’s comments Thursday and said “there’s no accuracy” to his claims.

Cruz insisted that he and Manning still have a great relationship and there’s no bad blood, but now the receiver will be catching passes from Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens, and Carolina Panthers were all reportedly been interested in some point, but Cruz said narrowed his choices to the Bears or Ravens before choosing the former.