NFL Free Agency: Testing Market a No-Brainer for NY Giants WR Mario Manningham

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Mario Manningham #82 of the New York Giants signals first down after catching a 38 yard pass from Eli Manning #10 over Patrick Chung #25 and Brian Witherspoon #29 in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

On the heels of his incredible 38-yard catch that ignited a game-winning touchdown drive in the Super Bowl, New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham's value has never been higher. It appears as though he will smartly take advantage of that by testing the free agent waters.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Manningham intends to become an unrestricted free agent on March 13 at 4 p.m. EST. Manningham nearly turned in a 1,000-yard receiving season in 2010, but injuries and the emergence of Victor Cruz made him the No. 3 receiver this past season.

Manningham caught just 39 passes for 523 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season, but in the playoffs he caught one touchdown in each of the team's first three games and, obviously, made the defining play of the Super Bowl.

Seeing as the G-Men are already going to have a lot of money tied up in the receiver position with Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, testing free agency is the only real option for Manningham. He isn't going to be paid like a starting receiver with the Giants and he won't be able to garner as many looks from quarterback Eli Manning as Cruz and Nicks do.

Manningham proved last year he can be a starting outside receiver in the NFL as he possesses top-flight speed, so somebody is going to give him a nice contract. The free-agent class is stacked in terms of wide receivers with the likes of Wes Welker, Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson, Stevie Johnson and others, but Manningham can be a gem for some team.

Florio suggests the Washington Redskins as a possibility since they are the Giants' divisional rival. It certainly makes sense since Santana Moss is getting up there in years, Jabar Gaffney is performing beyond his means and a new quarterback could be in place following the NFL draft.

The Redskins seem like a good possibility, but there figure to be teams lining up to sign Manningham as he will come cheaper than many of the top-tier options and it seems as though he has yet to reach his full potential. That is very enticing for teams that are looking to get the most bang for their buck.

Regardless of what happened in the Super Bowl, Manningham figures to garner a lot of interest in free agency because it's clear he's a big-time talent stuck behind two great receivers. That one play in the Super Bowl, though, may very well have made him millions more than he would have gotten otherwise.

There is no question the Giants would love to have him back and they will likely try to negotiate with him, but they won't be able to offer the money and playing time that other teams can. Perhaps Manningham loves it in New York and would be willing to take a pay cut, but after winning the Super Bowl I have to believe that he is ready to move on to the next chapter of his career.