By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – More than just a positive locker room figure, the Bears had hoped for receiver Victor Cruz to become a reliable target within their offense.
Cruz saw that opportunity in Chicago with a roster that was lacking at receiver. After being released by the Giants last offseason, he felt there was a good opportunity to be productive with the Bears. That window of chance is soon closing, and Cruz has yet to take full advantage.
Rosters will be cut from 90 players to 53 on Saturday, and Cruz is among those Bears who will be left wondering whether he has done enough to make the team.
“I always feel that way,” Cruz said Tuesday at Halas Hall. “Whether I was a starter or I was coming off a Super Bowl, my mindset is always like I’m fighting for a job. So I never get complacent, I never get kind of easy going in my position. I always want to have that chip on my shoulder like I’m fighting for a roster spot.”
The 30-year-old Cruz was signed to a one-year deal worth up to $2 million, with $1.5 million guaranteed. Cruz would come with a cap hit of nearly $2.5 million, which far exceeds the $695,000 hit for fellow receiver Deonte Thompson. But the Bears are in a comfortable place with their salary cap picture for this season, so financials may not factor into play.
Kevin White will now serve as the Bears’ top receiver after Cam Meredith suffered a torn ACL in Sunday’s game. Kendall Wright has served as the primary slot option, and Markus Wheaton is working his way back from a fractured pinkie finger surgically repaired two weeks ago. Undrafted rookie Tanner Gentry may have solidified a place on the active roster with a strong preseason and now a new role on special teams.
The Bears will be sorting through their options to likely fill two spots at receiver. Josh Bellamy is a valued special teams asset, and Thompson has also played a role in the return game. Titus Davis has also gotten a look during the preseason, and Gentry has maximized his opportunity.
Then there’s Cruz, who recorded a touchdown catch in the first preseason contest but has been mostly quiet otherwise. He hasn’t been elevated to significant first-team reps despite a wealth of experience and opportunity at an uncertain position.
Cruz can recall cut-down days of the past in which teammates who have become friends were released and left without jobs. It’s a tough part of the business that he knows well.
Come Saturday, Cruz will be waiting to hear whether he remains with the Bears or is looking for another chance.
“It’s meant a lot, just to be given an opportunity,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for and that’s all I’ve ever asked for my entire career, was a chance to perform, to prove myself, and I thank the organization for giving me that. Now, it’s time to potentially build on that and see how we go moving forward.”