Now that he has signed a five-year extension with the New York Giants, wide receiver Victor Cruz hopes teammate Hakeem Nicks will be next. And soon.
"It feels good," Cruz said Monday in a conference call after he signed an extension reported to be worth $46 million, including a $9.6 million signing bonus as part of $15.6 million guaranteed. "More importantly being able to take care of my family, my mom and my daughter and everyone in my family that looked up to me and wants me to do good."
"I feel I can just kick back and play football again," he said. "That was the most important thing. I'm excited to get it done and I'm dying to get back out there."
And when he does, he wants it to be with Nicks, who is entering the final year of his contract.
"I'm definitely going to put the pressure on him to come back and see if he wants to play with me for the long haul, see if we can do this together for a couple of years," Cruz said. "We'll see how it goes. Hakeem's his own man and is going to make his own decisions, but I'm definitely going to see if I can get him to stay with me for a couple of years."
To do that, Cruz said he had some advice for his teammate.
"Just stay level-headed. Take my approach. Don't say anything; there's nothing to say, at least publicly, that's going to help your cause," Cruz said. "Just stay grounded, stay with your family and stay in communication with your agent and let him know exactly what you're looking for and have that rapport, because that's all you need. Everything will unfold from there. Take it one day at a time and understand that it is a process and to be patient. Always keep your body ready to go and you should be OK."
With his contract wrapped up, Cruz, who has 168 regular season receptions for 2,628 yards (15.6-yard average) and 19 touchdowns over the last two years, is hoping to build on what he's started on the field.
"This is just another step to getting where I want to be at the end of my career," he said. "I love to do well for my team and do well each year and continue to prove myself and not feel complacent and not feel I've done enough.
"More championships. I want to continue to have catches and yards and touchdowns and help my team win and get to the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl. To do that in such an early part of my career was outstanding, but you want more, you want to continue to feel that. The work is just getting started for me. It's a whole new window of opportunity, a whole new world for me after this contract."
Cruz skipped all the spring workouts while continuing to negotiate for a new contract. He signed the Giants' one-year tender offer on June 14, thereby avoiding the possibility of having the tender reduced on June 17.
He said he was relieved that he will not have to go into the season addressing questions about his contract.
"These things take time. You don't know the ups and downs these things can take," he said. "I knew we were in this for the long haul and we were going to be patient and wait this thing out and not feel any regrets once the deal came through."
That's why he said that there wasn't any doubt about whether he'd be a Giant.
"I was in communication with my agent (Tom Condon) every day, and he assured me that things were moving in the right direction," Cruz said. "There was never any point where I didn't think I would be a Giant. I just didn't know if it would be for one year or the next six."
Cruz said he didn't receive any calls from other teams this past March and April, when teams were allowed to speak with restricted free agents. He reportedly will receive a $1.5 million roster bonus in 2014, when his cap number shoots to $7.420 million (including a $4 million salary and the $1.920 million prorated signing bonus).