Perhaps the hottest name on the NFL free-agent market at the moment is Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham, who reportedly said earlier in the week that there was a 75 percent chance of him not returning to the champion New York Giants, and it looked as if Tampa Bay was a likely destination for the 25-year-old.
The question is, do the Giants really want the young receiver back?
Manningham is certainly a talented wideout and came up with some gigantic plays down the stretch in the Super Bowl, including that incredible sideline grab that immediately drew comparisons to David Tyree's inhuman catch four years back in Super Bowl 42. That being said, Manningham also had a couple of mental errors that game, errors that just do not seem to go away.
It seems that for every great play Manningham makes, he makes a mistake elsewhere. OK, maybe not that often, but his propensity for miscues is certainly there, and Giants fans are well aware of that fact.
Again, I am not denying the man's talent. What I am saying, though, is that New York has two other Pro Bowl-caliber receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, so Manningham will never be anything more than a No. 3 on the G-Men so long as that duo is in tow. Because of that, it is not worth paying Mario the likely substantial amount of money he is looking for.
The dollar figure that Manningham is aiming for has not yet been mentioned, but logic dictates that is definitely more than No. 3 receiver money, especially with the Super Bowl performance just a few weeks ago. I'm not saying he will get top-flight dough, but you have to think he is going to end up one of the happier players at the conclusion of the 2012 free-agent frenzy.
Now, paying Manningham what he wants wouldn't be an issue for the Giants if they had the cap room to do so, but they don't, and they not only have to worry about Manningham, but players such as Terrell Thomas, Aaron Ross, Jonathan Goff, Chase Blackburn, Steve Weatherford and Kareem McKenzie are all free agents, not to mention the fact that Osi Umenyiora and Brandon Jacobs' contracts are both up next year, and they are both working with Jerry Reese and the rest of the New York front office to get deals done.
Obviously, Manningham isn't the only thing that Reese and company have to be concerned with over the course of free agency, as they have other integral players that they have to try and lock up.
I also think Manningham is very replaceable.
He had a fine year this past season, but he had a nagging knee injury that kept him out of four games and clearly limited his effectiveness in others. Knee injuries are never something to overlook, and paying Mario a sizeable chunk of guaranteed money could certainly end up becoming a problem if the knee issues persist.
Also, let's face it; as good as Manningham is, he is not an elite wide receiver, and he never will be. Therefore, he should not be getting paid top dollar for his services. I could see a team like the Buccaneers shelling out some cash for him because they are so desperate for offense, but a team like the Giants doesn't need to do that. They already have Cruz and Nicks, plus a great quarterback in Eli Manning who can mold whatever receivers he is given into at least reliable guys.
I don't want anyone to misconstrue what I am trying to say here. For the right price, Big Blue should undoubtedly want to bring Mario back, but if his asking price is too high, let him walk. There are other more pressing issues, such as Umenyiora's contract situation.
If Manningham goes, New York can easily draft another receiver or use one of its in-house options, such as Jerrel Jernigan, a third-round pick from a year ago who clearly has talent, or Domenik Hixon, a free agent who the Giants are working to bring back. You even have to think Ramses Barden would get a shot, although, despite the type of physical ability he has, I am not sure he will ever put anything together, and I was always a huge fan of his.
Of course, there is still a chance that Mario decides that he wants to spend more time with the defending Super Bowl champions, but there is also the possibility that the prospect of more money and more footballs thrown his way will lure him elsewhere. It would not surprise me in the least if the latter turns out to be the case, and honestly, who could blame him?
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