ESPNFor all the talk there has been about the New York Giants signing restricted free agent wide receiver Victor Cruz to a long-term contract, the team is putting a bigger emphasis at this time on signing wide receiver Hakeem Nicks to a long-term deal, according to league sources. Nicks, 25, has one year remaining on his contract, but New York would like to tie him to the team long term as it views him as a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Due to injuries to his knee and foot, Nicks failed to post 1,000 yards receiving for the first time since 2009. It was the first time in three seasons that Nicks did not have at least 76 receptions, 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in a season. The Giants also would like to keep the 26-year-old Cruz, but at this time, Nicks’ contract status is the higher priority. Giants owner John Mara said last week that he wants Cruz to remain a Giant, but at a reasonable price. “We certainly want him back, but like with any player, there’s a limit to where we’re going to go.”

Well, it’s official. The New York Giants are no longer the defending Super Bowl champs. A murderer came out on top in the Blackout Bowl while San Francisco is telling everyone they were still the better team (sound familiar?) – so it’s time to look ahead to next season. Big Blue certainly have holes to fill – namely at linebacker and on the offensive line – as well as decisions to make on other FA’s (Andre & Stevie Brown, Beatty, Boothe, Black Unicorn should all be back). But easily their most public of off-season decisions will be whether or not Victor Cruz takes his salsa elsewhere. Obviously, in a perfect world, keeping both Nicks & Cruz in blue is the ideal outcome – but prioritizing Nicks with the potential of Victor walking is the right thing to do.

Cruz is a restricted free agent – if he ends up getting tendered then receives an offer from another team which the G-Men don’t match, they’ll get a first-round pick as compensation. Losing Nicks after 2013 gets them nada. And although he’s been around longer, Hakeem’s a year younger than Victor. You could argue that he’s yet to play a full 16, but if you put his two seasons prior to 2012 up against Cruz’ career, the numbers are basically the same. Nicks’ best year was actually in 2010 without Cruz, so he’s proven he can stand on his own just as Eli’s proven he can throw to anyone. Barden & Hixon both had 100-yard games out of nowhere. Besides, look at the recent guys who left NY thinking they could play. Steve Smith. Manningham. Can Cruz succeed as well in the slot without a legit #1 like Nicks on the outside?

Last but not least, Cruz is at peak value. Nicks could be a bargain. So whatever the terms would be for Nicks’ deal set the template for Cruz. Sure, he’d probably pull in a bigger haul from another squad, but I think in the end his current high demands will come down to fit. Call it a hometown discount or just call it smart – staying part of one of the best WR duos in the NFL for a team seemingly built to be in the postseason hunt for the near future should be a no-brainer if & when he gets his offer from the Giants. Reality is, though, he needs them more than they need him. If he’s tendered & walks, he’ll certainly be missed – but a #1 pick & Eli’s ability to churn out successful receivers will ensure it’s not the crippling blow many people think it would be.