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Hakeem Nicks' Giants future not tied to Cruz's contract

Victor Cruz's new six-year, $45.879 million contract extension raises one obvious question: Will that commitment preclude the New York Giants from locking up Hakeem Nicks before he reaches the free-agent market in 2014?

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The short answer is "No." The long answer is that much is riding on Nicks' ability to return to his 2010 to 2011 form this season.

Cruz has been the NFL's second-most valuable slot receiver behind Percy Harvin, and the Giants paid Cruz as such.

Giants brass balked at shelling out top-10 receiver money to Cruz because they view Nicks as a more legitimate No. 1 -- capable of drawing and producing against double teams.

Eli Manning acknowledged as much, attributing the offense's late-season slide to his top "deep threat" and "playmaker" battling through injuries. Nicks is that important to the Giants' aerial attack because Cruz has yet to prove he can beat double teams.

Even with Rueben Randle poised for an increased role in 2013, Nicks remains in the Giants' long-term plans.

If Nicks stays healthy and productive for 16 games this season, he can expect the Giants to eventually pony up to the tune of Mike Wallace's five-year, $60 million contract. If Nicks continues to struggle with lower-leg injuries, however, general manager Jerry Reese can opt to go year to year, via the franchise tag. Either way, the viability of keeping both star receivers in the Big Apple hinges more on Nicks' health than on Cruz's contract.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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