Consider the lives of two football players, roughly the same age, similar career arcs and college background and both thrust into similar contract situations, Victor Cruz and Steve Brown.
Neither player was valued highly by scouts coming out of college and neither was drafted early. Stevie Brown was a 7th round pick coming out of Michigan (251st overall) of the Oakland Raiders in 2010. Victor Cruz came out of U Mass the same year and went undrafted. Brown kicked around with Raiders in 2010, was cut at the end of the year. He signed with the Colts for 2011 and barely played getting cut after the season and signed by the Giants as a FA that they just wanted to take a flyer on in April 2012. Cruz came onto the Giants as an undrafted FA and had little expectations of catching on. He made the team largely on the strength of an eye opening performance in a preseason game against the Jets where he scored 3 TDs while playing only in the 2nd half. He played a few games in 2010 then went on IR. He made the team in 2011 but was not playing much until injuries gave him a chance and he made his big splash onto the scene against the Eagles early in 2011. He has been a big player for the Giants in 2011 and 2012. Stevie Brown got his chance last year also due to some injuries in the secondary, particularly to S Kenny Phillips. Brown announced his arrival last year with 8 INTs.
Since neither had signed a big rookie contract coming out of college, they did not have the required service time in the NFL and therefore were both RFAs coming into the 2013 off season. Both received a tender offer from the Giants, Cruz at the first round level and Brown at 2nd. Neither received any offers from other teams during the FA signing period and were therefore married to the Giants for 2013 season. Cruz negotiated hard and held out as long as he could but finally relented and signed a long term contract with the Giants, making his future secure, notwithstanding this heel injury that he is now nursing. On the other hand, Steve Brown tore his ACL in a meaningless preseason game and his future is anything but secure. He had a great year last year, but still does not have the history or pedigree to write his own ticket. If he had a great 2013, he would have been a full unrestricted FA at the end of the year and would have cashed in going into the 2014 season. But the ACL injury made those plans unreachable and far from being financially secure next year, his career is at best tentative and in fact may be over. How much guaranteed money and how many years is some team going to pay for a S coming off ACL surgery? Rhetorical question - answer is "not much". He may be checked out by a few teams, and will be offered a 1 year provisional contract, perhaps with some incentives, where he has to prove himself all over again. Many players, especially at the speed positions need more than 1 year to get back to full strength after the ACL goes, so if his 2014 season is shaky, there will be 2 years worth of safeties having come out of college that he has to compete with in 2015 just to stick on an NFL roster.
The moral of the story is that Cruz did the right thing by taking the best offer he could get from the Giants even if he thought it was undervalued. Hakeem Nicks might consider the same story and try to sign a slightly lower contract now rather than risk an injury sometime during the year which could jeopardize his entire career.