The Chicago Bears appeared to be the perfect landing spot for Victor Cruz. The veteran wideout could add instant credibility to a shallow receiving corps and prove he’s still able to contribute at a high level after injuries marred his last three seasons in the league.
In the end, the pairing failed to pan out. The Bears released Cruz on Friday, putting the 30-year-old’s NFL future in jeopardy.
Cruz broke onto the league landscape in in 2011, emerging as one of the NFL’s top offensive threats despite being a undrafted free agent out of FCS lion — but FBS lamb — Massachusetts. After playing only three games as a rookie, his sophomore season ended with 1,536 receiving yards — good for third-most in the league. He gave Eli Manning a dangerous deep threat and helped the Giants claim Super Bowl XLVI.
His 2012 wasn’t as good, but led to his only Pro Bowl selection to date and set him up for a massive contract extension. Cruz re-signed with New York for five years and $43 million, though he’d never perform up to the expectations of that big deal — or the two seasons that preceded it.
While he played well in 2013, his 2014 season ended in disaster. A torn patellar tendon ended his year after just six games. While he planned to return early in 2015, a calf injury suffered during rehab kept him from the field entirely.
He returned to the gridiron in 2016, but the speed and explosiveness that defined his early success struggled to return. He had just 39 receptions for 586 yards, providing key depth but failing to live up to the big money he was due over the tail end of the contract. The Giants released him early in the 2017 offseason, clearing $7.5 million in cap space along the way.
That led him to Chicago, where Cameron Meredith and oft-injured Kevin White were the two leading holdovers from a poor passing offense. Cruz was one of many questionable veterans signed — Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, and Rueben Randle also earned deals with the Bears — and expected to contribute both in the field and in the locker room.
Instead, his tenure with the franchise will come to a close after only three disappointing months, failing to earn a role even with Meredith’s season-ending knee injury. The 2011 All-Pro has the chance to sign on with a new team as a free agent, but after being dumped by the Bears, his career may be coming to an end instead.