2012 NFL Free Agents: 4 Guys New York Giants Should Lock Up for Long-Term Deals

Lou Rom@louromliveContributor IFebruary 14, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agents: 4 Guys New York Giants Should Lock Up for Long-Term Deals

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    It's not particularly newsworthy to remind fans that only four of the New York Giants' starters are impending free agents this offseason—linebacker Chase Blackburn, cornerback Aaron Ross, tackle Kareem McKenzie and punter Steve Weatherford.

    But when's the last time you heard this?

    The punter is the only guy the Giants must lock up for a long-term deal.

    Yes, I said it—the punter.

    Sure, we love Blackburn's story about his bag that was packed and waiting—for four months—until the Giants finally made the call after getting annihilated by the New Orleans Saints in November. And he deserves to come back to see if he can perform like he did over a full season.

    But beyond Weatherford, the starters facing free agency are not very compelling.

    The G-Men are definitely lacking in the secondary, but Ross has not proved to be the answer. McKenzie has lots of playoff experience and is an asset in the locker room, but is aging.

    None of them, other than Weatherford, warrant a long-term deal at the moment.

    But here's a list of a few guys who do.

Injured Cornerback Terrell Thomas Is Worth the Risk

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    Drafted in 2008 out of USC, Thomas developed into the most sound, reliable cornerback on the Giants roster in 2010.

    While he's no shutdown corner, he is solid across the board; he rarely gets burned for big plays, he finds a way to get a hand in, especially on underneath plays, and is one of the best tacklers on the team.

    In 2010, he impressed with 101 tackles and five interceptions.

    But he tore his ACL in the 2011preseason. He is still in rehab, is running and is in talks to return to the Giants (according to the NY Daily News).

    Some guaranteed money up front and an incentive-laden, long-term deal would be the way to go for the Giants and Thomas.

Punter Steve Weatherford Proved Invaluable to the G-Men This Year

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    Weatherford, the anti-punter, he of the chiseled abs and multiple tattoos, might well have been the Super Bowl MVP if, well, there wasn't an unwritten rule against such a thing.

    Last year Weatherford set personal bests in average—45.4—and net yards, and his career average of 43.4 is solid.

    While kickers are seen as easily replaceable in the league, Weatherford was invaluable to the Giants last year and is the best in the league at pinning receiving teams inside the 20.

    The Giants remain a field-position team, and no one dictates that more than the punter.

    New York should do the smart thing and lock him and his abs in for a multi-year deal.

Victor Cruz Is the Giants' No. 1 Offensive Priority This Offseason

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    In an incredible season, Cruz broke the team's single-season record for receiving yards and became a full-blown star in NY.

    He is the team's No. 1 priority on offense going into the offseason.

    Cruz led the team in receiving with 82 receptions for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns, and his presence made Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham better.

    Cruz is scheduled to earn $490,000 this coming season, the final year of his contract, and may require top-10 receiver money to keep beyond 2012.

    He is worth it.

Osi Umenyiora Is a Key Cog in the Giants D, and the No. 1 Defensive Priority

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    Umenyiora is an integral part of the Giants defensive core, and should be signed to a long-term deal despite some injury problems and squabbles with management last year.

    He’s entering the last year of his deal, which calls for $3.975 million, and could probably be had for not much more.

    After recording nine regular-season sacks and 3.5 more in four playoff games, Umenyiora has earned a long-term deal.

    Given his injury history and age (30), the Giants would be wise to sign Umenyiora to a long-term, incentive-laden deal that rewards him for staying healthy.

    Umenyiora is a workhorse, and one of the most fit guys on the team, so his age should really not be a problem for Giants brass. His presence makes the entire defense better. 

Mario Manningham Might Be the One That Gets Away

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    Mario Manningham had a Victor Cruz-like season in 2010, then when Cruz emerged this year he faded and became the team's third option. Six weeks ago keeping Manningham would have been unlikely, but that coudl change.

    After Manningham's 38-yard catch on the sideline kept the Giants hopes alive in Super Bowl XLVI, they may reconsider.

    Manningham is sure to garner interest on teams looking for a solid starter, and there are several, but his stats don't justify the Giants making him an offer he can't refuse.

    With 39 catches for 523 yards and four touchdowns, he is a third receiver on most teams, but it's likely some team will buy into the Super Bowl karma and take a shot on him.

    He may get that long-term deal, but not with the Giants.