Victor Cruz, who was released by the only team he’d ever known in the NFL back in February, is now a member of the Chicago Bears. The former New York Giant signed a one-year deal with the team, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, where he’ll hope to revive a career slowed by injury the past two seasons.
The news was confirmed by Cruz on Instagram shortly after Rapoport’s report with an impressive Photoshop:
Cruz vaulted into the hearts of Giants fans after making the roster as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Massachusetts. He only played in three games as a rookie, but his hard work paid off in 2011 when he was elevated to the starting lineup and broke out for 1,532 receiving yards, nine touchdowns, and an instantly memorable celebration dance.
He would be named a Pro Bowler the following season after another 1,000-plus-yard campaign, but would never quite recreate the magic of his Cinderella sophomore season. He appeared in only six games in 2014 before tearing his patellar tendon, an injury that would keep him out of the entire 2015 season as well. When he finally returned last fall, it was clear he was no longer the explosive scoring threat he once was.
While Cruz averaged a career-high 15 yards per catch, he made just 39 receptions last fall and found the end zone only once. That made the former star and his $9.4 million cap hit expendable despite his long history with New York. While the Giants were undoubtedly sad to see their homegrown star leave, it was undoubtedly the right move at the time.
It didn’t sit well with Cruz, though. A few months after the release, the receiver claimed that the Giants intentionally limited his targets in an effort to make the decision to part with his contract easier.
Cruz is only 30 years old and could still return to a high level of production if his knee continues to improve. That’s what the Bears are betting on and hoping for with a very different looking offense in 2017.
Chicago has one of the thinnest wide receiving corps in the league. While third-year wideout Cameron Meredith has developed into a useful piece, the club only has injury-riddled Kevin White and a grab bag of underwhelming free agent signings — Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, and Reuben Randle foremost among them — behind him. Bringing in Cruz gives quarterbacks Mike Glennon and Mitchell Trubisky another reliable target and locker room leader to help kick-start the franchise’s rebuild.