2012 NFL Free Agents: Why the New York Giants Must Re-Sign Mario Manningham

Louis HamweyAnalyst IIIFebruary 16, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agents: Why the New York Giants Must Re-Sign Mario Manningham

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    Mario Manningham was the hero of Super Bowl XLVI. His impressive catch tip-toeing down the sideline has been compared to the helmet grab of David Tyree four years earlier. Both plays effectively swung momentum in the Giants' favor and led them to win the game.

    But with confetti now swept up in lower Manhattan and the Super Bowl hangover wearing off, it is time to get back to business.

    Manningham is in the last year of his contract, and once free agency opens on March 13th, he will be available on the open market.

    The worst thing the Giants can do is let this happen.

    New York should spend the next month attempting to do everything possible to ensure that he remains in the blue jersey.

    Yes, it will be costly, but the repercussions of not doing so can be greater than any price tag.

    Here are five reasons the Giants should re-sign Mario Manningham.

Biggest Name on the List

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    The Giants have long list of players up for free agency this year, 22 in all. Out of that list there is not a single name that has more volume to the national audience than Mario Manningham.

    He is the only offensive player at a skilled position who featured regularly during the season and the only one whose jersey you would see on a fan.

    This may seem simple, but it cannot be overlooked.

    We cannot allow ourselves to forget that sports are a business. The owners want to win only because winning brings profits. If winning is not likely, then cuts are made to ensure minimal loss. Either way, it all comes back to money.

    Manningham is not necessarily the most logical name to re-sign in terms of football.  

    I see Steve Weatherford as the best football move. Having a good punter can flip the field, and we saw that as he pinned the Patriots deep multiple times in the Super Bowl including their first drive, giving them a safety.

    However, there is not much that Weatherford will do in terms of marketing for the team. He plays a position that does not get much attention from the media and does it in very humble way.

    You could also make an argument for cornerback Aaron Ross, who was a big part of their success this season and probably overall had a bigger impact than Manningham. But it is difficult to make a cornerback into a big name.

    The only one who really has been able to do so is the Jets' Darrelle Revis, and he is the game's very best. Even Nnamdi Asomugha of the Philadelphia Eagles, arguably a close second to Revis going into the season, was exposed at his new team and has lost fanfare.

    It is just too risky of a position, and respect is earned and lost from game to game.

    Manningham is the only name on this list that can not only provide substance on the field but has the name recognition and marketability to bring in profits off it.

Wary About Cruz

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    I am a Victor Cruz fan as much as the next guy. But if that next guy is an irrational and overly-zealous supporter blind of the issues Cruz can create, then I might have to take a step back.

    There is no doubt that the breakout player of the NFL season was Victor Cruz. In his first complete NFL season, the 25-year-old out of UMass had 82 receptions for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. Impressive numbers for an essential rookie.

    But what really made him astounding and electric is the way he went about it getting those numbers.

    He made big play after big play and changed the game with his elusiveness and open-field speed matched by no defensive back. His 99-yard touchdown against the New York Jets helped them get into the playoffs, and his touchdown in the Super Bowl was critical to the win.

    However, logically you have to be concerned with the type of player Victor Cruz is.

    Cruz is an okay route runner, with decent hands and excellent speed. The way he makes big plays is not by being a bigger, stronger and better athlete than his defenders, but by feeding off of their mistakes.

    The 99-yard touchdown was a short pass that cornerback Antonio Cromartie misjudged. Cruz, to his credit, took advantage of the miscue and turned it into a game changer.

    But in the Super Bowl, Cruz was pretty quiet. Bill Belichick was able to silence him with an inferior defense by making sure they played it safe and did not make mistakes. He didn’t mind Cruz catching eight-yard out routes as the cushion did not allow for a mistake that could lead to a big play.

    There are very few great wide receivers in the league who can do it year-in and year-out. Coaches will take Belichick’s model and adapt it to a way that makes Cruz’s impact not as great as it was this season.

    The Giants are almost certain to lock him up in a longer deal as he deserves it given his performance this season.

    But Manningham may provide the better value in terms of what he can bring to the field. About the only thing Cruz has on Manningham is speed, but like I said, that could be nullified by playing a defense to counter it.

    Other than that, Manningham has better hands, is a stronger route runner and has the size you want for deep-field threats.

    Cruz will not be a free agent until 2013. He should have one more year to prove he is the real deal before an extension is offered.

    Overall, If you are going to give Cruz the money now, you might as well give it to Manningham. It is a safer bet in the long run, and you will still have the chance to re-sign Cruz next year.

Manningham Plays a Huge Role

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    If Mario Manningham re-signs in New York, it is ironically Belichick he has to thank.

    Following the Super Bowl, NFL films released sound bites from the game. One particular clip caught the attention of many as Belichick was heard saying just before Manningham’s historic catch,

    This is still a Cruz and Nicks game. I know we're right on them; it's tight. But those are still the guys. Make them go to Manningham; make them go to (tight end Bear) Pascoe. Let's make sure we get Cruz and Nicks."

    And just like that, the stuff of legends is born.

    This became a major talking point throughout the sports world the day after its release. People began to question the choice of leaving Manningham and focusing on the other two receivers.

    It was the right move for Belichick to make. He forced the Giants to beat him, not letting the Patriots beat themselves.

    The quote itself describes the Giants' receivers in terms of the depth chart, but the play that followed shows them in terms of depth at the position.

    The Giants essentially have three wide receivers who cannot be covered by a single defensive back. To be safely covered, they all need to be double-teamed. Do the math, and that come out to six players to cover three guys.

    This kind of calculation will always favor the Giants and Eli Manning’s offense.

    If you take away Manningham, the odds of replacing him with someone who will be able to command the same kind of respect is not likely. Then it becomes five to cover three, odds that a skilled coordinator is used to working around.

    The fact is, as long as Manningham is on the Giants, he has little chance of being a Pro Bowl player year-in and year-out. But at the same time, he also is the added piece to the puzzle that brings everything together.

    Lose him and you risk a big empty hole on the offense.

Can Hurt You Elsewhere

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    I just spoke of how as long as Manningham is on the Giants, he will not be a Pro Bowler, well that does not mean he might not be elsewhere.

    Should the Giants make the mistake of letting Manningham leave, he will surely be signed to another team within days. There will be plenty of suitors at the door as a good lot of NFL teams would love to have a dynamic and reliable wide receiver with playoff experience.

    At only 25 years old, whichever team he goes to could be looking at him as a long-term No. 1 around whom to build their attack.

    The most concerning thing for Giants fans would have to be the very real and possible threat of him ending up within the division.

    The Washington Redskins have absolutely nothing in the wideout position, and Manningham would almost certainly be their No. 1. Should they go after and get Peyton Manning as well, why would Manningham not like the chance to get paid more and play with the other, (better) Manning?

    The Eagles are probably going to let go of their stud receiver DeSean Jackson. The head case is one of the best players in the league, but his attitude has made him a tough sell to the fans.

    Manningham would again become the No. 1, and with a team that is surely expected to perform better next year, there is all upside for the Eagles.

    Finally, the Dallas Cowboys perhaps represent a concern. Manningham would not be the No. 1, but pairing him with Dez Bryant and Miles Austin would be similar to what he has in New York.

    Yes, Tony Romo is not nearly the kind of passer Manning is, but then again, the Maras would not throw out the kind of money and swag Jerry Jones would. If he wants Manningham he will do everything he can to get him.

    Manningham’s departure would have a lot of effects on the Giants offense, but it could potentially have even more on their defense.

The Right Attitude

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    This aspect of his game cannot be coveted highly enough.

    In the day and age of the diva wide receiver, where by owning a computer he can make every little thought or notion he has public to the world, you cannot help but respect someone who is as humble as Manningham.

    Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson, Steve Johnson and Plaxico Burress—all these names are up for free agency this year, and all are probably better at the position than Manningham. But Manningham is still seen by many as the most coveted prize.

    The issues these players will bring to your clubhouse, to your coaches and to your franchise far outweigh anything they can do on the field. When things don’t go their way, they are no longer useful.

    Manningham played on one of the worst University of Michingan teams, ever and he never said a thing. He was drafted low, in the third round, and still stayed quiet. He hardly played his rookie year and didn’t raise a brow.

    Now he is walking around with one more ring (with the exception of Plax) than any of those names on that list.

    What is even more impressive is that he understands the importance of maturity.

    Manningham originally denied to pro teams that he had tested positive for marijuana in college, when in actually he had twice. Manningham took the responsibility upon himself to tell the truth and wrote a letter to all 32 teams apologizing for his lie.

    The one thing that the Giants truly have is a stable locker room. While the city was asking for vast changes, they stuck together all the way to the Super Bowl.

    Manningham is representative of a rare mature and tight-knit group—the main thing many teams are missing in their search for a championship.

Do You Think They Should Keep Manningham?

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    The decision to keep Manningham will be tracked closely in the New York area. He is the biggest free agent with an uncertain future in the city.

    But we as fans are the ones who will judge the decision more than anyone, so what do you think they should do?

    Should they keep Manningham for the reasons above? Should they for others? Are the reasons above reasons they should let him go?

    Your opinion is as good as mine, so let’s hear what you have to say.

     

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