Bears to sign WR Victor Cruz, bank on salsa dancer’s seasoning

SHARE Bears to sign WR Victor Cruz, bank on salsa dancer’s seasoning

Receiver Victor Cruz. (AP)

A few minutes before announcing they had agreed to terms with former New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz on a one-year contract Thursday, the Bears tweeted out an emoji of five women in red dresses, dancing the salsa.

Besides the fact a woman in a red dress isn’t always a good omen in this town — see John Dillinger — the nod to Cruz’s trademark touchdown dance missed the point.

Cruz’s value in 2017 is no longer about spice; it’s about the seasoning.

After meeting with Cruz last week at Halas Hall, the Bears decided his experience would be valuable to young receivers Cam Meredith and Kevin White. If the team’s patchwork receiving corps succeeds in replacing Alshon Jeffery this season, it will be because one or both of the inexperienced receivers makes a leap.

Meredith, the Bears’ de facto No. 1 receiver entering the season, is 24, never had started a game until last season and began his college career as a quarterback at Illinois State.

‘‘I think he’s gonna have a big year,’’ Bears quarterback Mike Glennon said Tuesday. ‘‘He’s looked really sharp to me.’’

White, the No. 7 overall pick in 2015 who has played in only four NFL games because of injuries, is about three months older than Meredith. His route-running needs work, provided he can stay on the field.

‘‘He’s a big body. He’s fast. He’s got good catch radius,’’ Glennon said. ‘‘It’s just got to all come together, and I think it will once he plays.’’

Markus Wheaton, fresh off signing a two-year, $11 million deal, also will be part of the Bears’ receiving corps. The team hopes Cruz, who will receive a reported $2 million guaranteed with $2 million more in incentives, can contribute, too.

Cruz, 30, is a recognizable receiver, to be sure. He averaged 96 receiving yards a game during the Giants’ Super Bowl-winning season in 2011 and earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2012. But he started only 18 games in the last three seasons combined and missed all of 2015 because of a torn right patellar tendon and surgery on his left calf. According to Pro Football Focus, Cruz has gone from being targeted on 30.3 percent of his routes in 2011 to 15.2 percent last year.

Blame Odell Beckham Jr., age or injury — or all three — for his decreased role, but he caught only 39 passes for 586 yards last season.

Cruz has scored only two touchdowns since the end of the 2013 season after posting 23 in the three seasons before that. In that sense, he’s no different from the other Fountain of Youth gambles the Bears took earlier this offseason.

Former Tennessee Titans receiver Kendall Wright, who, like Cruz, could reach $4 million if he hits all his incentives, had 1,079 receiving yards in 2013. Former Giants receiver Rueben Randle, whom the Bears signed to a one-year, $775,000 deal, had 938 receiving yards in 2014.

Two of the Bears’ top three tight ends, Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen, are new to Halas Hall. Add in the other receivers — 2016 seventh-round pick Daniel Braverman, special-teams star Josh Bellamy, kick returner Deonte Thompson and others — and the Bears are asking a horde of pass-catchers to develop quick chemistry with Glennon and No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky.

‘‘You can be with a guy for many years, and you’re still continuing to develop that chemistry,’’ Glennon said. ‘‘I feel like we’ve done a great job so far, but it will only continue to grow as we go through these [organized team activity] practices, into camp and into the season.”

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.



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