Super Bowl 2012: Projecting Top Contracts Coming out of Title Game

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2012

Super Bowl 2012: Projecting Top Contracts Coming out of Title Game

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    Now that Super Bowl 46 is in the books and when the excitement of a thrilling second half begins to fade, fiscal realities will inevitably take over. Certain players from the big game can likely expect to be in for a major payday, following their exploits on super Sunday.

    Those athletes who made the big plays that defined the game will be first in line to reap the rewards. Pending free agents will now be able to use their title game performances to increase their respective value on the open market.

    For those who disappointed on the big stage, their futures could now lie away from the Super Bowl participants. Here is a list projecting the five biggest contracts that will come about as a result of this season's Super Bowl.

5. Wes Welker, WR New England Patriots

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    It seems somehow appropriate to begin the list with easily the most contentious entrant. Wes Welker's critical fourth period drop kept alive the New York Giants faint hopes of winning and snatched victory from the collective grasp of the New England Patriots.

    The crafty slot receiver could unfortunately find that his stellar career comes to be defined by this famous blunder. But despite the gaffe, Welker is still an elite wideout who is as capable an underneath receiver as anybody who has ever played the game.

    He is an integral part of the New England offense. But if the Patriots choose to go younger at wide receiver, Welker would have no problem landing somewhere else.

    The diminutive pass catcher is a pending free agent and a big contract surely beckons for the player who led the league with 122 catches, even if THAT drop probably shaved off a few dollars. 

4. Jerod Mayo, ILB New England Patriots

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    Following such a demoralising defeat, there will naturally be a lot of focus on how the New England Patriots can fix their 31st-ranked defense. But before they even think about adding new faces, the Patriots would be wise to offer fresh terms to Jerod Mayo.

    The bruising inside linebacker is a smart and stout player and his intelligence and fierce tackling would be sorely missed at the heart of the Patriots defense. Mayo is scheduled to be a free agent in 2013 and a new deal surely beckons.

    The 25-year-old has topped 100 tackles in three of his four pro seasons and is a respected leader on defense. There would certainly be plenty of takers for Mayo if it became apparent the Patriots weren't that keen on keeping him around. 

3. Justin Tuck, DL New York Giants

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    After he dominated Tom Brady and the Patriots offense for the second time in four years, the Giants should seriously consider offering Justin Tuck a hefty new contract. The best all-round defensive lineman in the game destroyed New England's blocking schemes in the Super Bowl.

    Tuck registered two sacks and several other hits on Brady, as well as forcing a safety on the Patriots first offensive play. The 28-year-old is in the prime of his career and rebounded from an injury-riddled regular season to become a major contributor when his team needed him the most.

    Tuck has the hybrid skills that make Big Blue's defensive line rotation so successful. He possesses the speed to threaten the edge either from a two- or a three-point stance. The 6'5", 268 pounder also has the technique and natural strength to collapse the pocket from an interior position.

    Linemen with Tuck's versatility are rare and this would likely be his last major contract. So the Giants would be expected to put serious money on the table to reward Tuck's consistent playmaking skills.

    Tuck has two years left on the contract extension he inked in 2008. He has already mentioned the possibility of uncertainty regarding his next deal and the Giants would be smart to begin discussions with their defensive linchpin immediately. 

2. Victor Cruz, WR New York Giants

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    After completing a magical breakout season, former rookie free agent Victor Cruz may be wise to take the opportunity presented by a Super Bowl win to secure a new contract. There's no doubt that Cruz is certainly now in a position to command significantly better terms than his rookie deal.

    The dynamic flanker caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He was the subject of intense coverage from the Patriots in the Super Bowl, but still managed to score the game's opening touchdown.

    His original contract is set to run out in 2013 and the Giants offense is certainly not as potent without him. Cruz has put himself in position to be rewarded with a huge new deal.

1. Mario Manningham, WR New York Giants

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    Mario Manningham hasn't been able to hold onto a starting wide receiver job in the last two seasons. But in the Super Bowl he held onto the pass that swung the momentum permanently in favour of Big Blue.

    Manningham's fourth quarter leaping 38-yard grab is the play that Super Bowl 46 will be remembered for. It's also the play that will probably be Manningham's ticket to a mega bucks new contract.

    The fourth-year wide receiver has often disappointed during his time in the Big Apple. But his knack for the big play has been present throughout the Giants playoff run and ultimately won them the NFL title.

    Manningham is a free agent and his big-game heroics should give him a lot of options. If he wants another shot at a starting job, he is unlikely to unseat Cruz or Hakeem Nicks.

    But Manningham's Super Bowl performance could convince another team that he is starting caliber. That is unless the Giants feel he is too valuable to let go and put enough money in front of Manningham to soften the blow of staying third receiver.