By Chris Emma–
(CBS) Before he became the salsa-dancing star in New York, Victor Cruz was a kid trying to make the team.
Cruz was a standout at UMass but went undrafted in 2010. The New Jersey native stands at 6-feet tall and wasn’t exactly the most imposing force coming out of college. Still, the Giants gave him a shot.
Cruz made the team but saw his rookie season end after three games and zero receptions. So he went back to work and posted his best seasons in 2011 and 2012, recording a combined 168 catches for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns. Cruz became a star at receiver for the Giants, and he had fans doing salsa dances in the aisles.
Cruz was released by the Giants in March after just 39 receptions in a reduced role this past season. He now must prove himself all over again, this time in Chicago.
The Bears are hoping that Cruz can be impactful once again, signing him to a one-year deal Thursday. Further details to the deal aren’t yet known. It’s the latest intriguing addition for the Bears at receiver.
By adding the 30-year-old Cruz, the Bears have not only added a quality leader for their locker room — especially for a young receiving corp — but also a player who can potentially be a threat in the slot.
After losing Alshon Jeffery in free agency, the Bears signed veterans Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton in free agency, two players with solid production in their past. Wright, 27, set a Titans record with 94 receptions in 2013, while Wheaton, 26, made his name as a deep threat for the Steelers, posting 16 career catches for more than 20 yards and seven for more than 40.
Chicago also welcomed in a former teammate of Cruz, 26-year-old Reuben Randle, whose best seasons came in 2014 and 2015 with the Giants. Titus Davis, a 24-year-old who abruptly retired last preseason, earned his way to the roster in a tryout during rookie minicamp.
The Bears’ receiving group also features Kevin White, the 2015 first-round pick looking to be healthy this season, and Cameron Meredith, who hopes to repeat after a breakout 2016. Young players Daniel Braverman, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson and Tanner Gentry round out the group.
While there isn’t a Jeffery for the mix, the Bears have formed a festival of intrigue at receiver. They’ve brought in several reclamation projects in the hopes of finding major production from any number of this group.
Some form of White, Meredith, Wright, Wheaton, Randle, Cruz, Davis and anyone else will create the Bears’ targets. Competition will be busy through the offseason program, into training camp and ultimately leading up to Week 1 of the regular season.
By adding the players they have, the Bears have bought insurance policies to White and Meredith while also buying tickets on potential upside. If any one of these veteran additions can return to form of the past, it’s a major win for the Bears.
Cruz is the latest to get that opportunity. Let’s see if he can prove himself once more.
Chicago would love to see some salsa dancing.