New York Giants Free Agency: 3 Best Fits for No. 3 Wide Receiver Role
While he could be maddeningly inconsistent during his time in the NFC East, Manningham became a useful third receiver in 2011. He contributed some vital big plays in the team's run to victory in Super Bowl XLVI.
The G-Men need another weapon alongside prolific duo Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Given their cap restraints and the level to which the receiver market has already thinned, here are the three best remaining options:
Jerricho Cotchery, Pittsburgh Steelers
Cotchery is a natural fit for the third receiver role. He has good size at 6'1" and 200 pounds and runs intelligent routes.
The 29-year-old is tough and sure handed over the middle and is an excellent red zone target. Cotchery had a relatively quite season with the Steelers in 2011 after playing his first seven years with the New York Jets.
A return to New York would be a good way for Cotchery to re-discover his form from 2007, when he topped 1,100 yards. He may not see the number of passes needed to match those numbers with the Giants, but Cotchery would offer Eli Manning a reliable target, particularly on third downs.
With plenty of young and inexperienced receivers on the roster, the presence of a savvy and experienced flanker like Cotchery, could prove invaluable.
Donnie Avery, Tennessee Titans
Avery makes this list due to his speed and ability to stretch a defense vertically. Most think of third receivers as classic, possession-type pass catchers.
Yet Manningham was never this player. He provided the Giants with a deep threat and scoring potential from anywhere on the field.
If he can stay healthy, Avery could do the same. The 5'11", 183-pounder possesses a similar frame to Manningham and has the speed to outrun any coverage.
Injuries have been a problem though. The 27-year-old missed the entire 2010 season through injury and appeared in only eight games with the Titans in 2011.
Given his poor fitness record, the Giants would be wise to secure only a one-year contract at the veteran minimum. Avery's big play capability could make such a deal a real bargain.
Steve Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
The idea of bringing back a former Giants Pro Bowler, who signed with the enemy, may be repellent to some, but Steve Smith still has a lot to offer New York's pass offense.
The 5'11" 195-pounder is a crafty wideout who excels at finding the holes in a zone. Smith possesses excellent hands and deceptive speed.
At 26 years old, he's still young enough to completely recover from the serious injury issues that wrecked his first spell with Big Blue. After an uninspired season with arch rival Philadelphia, the cost of Smith's return to the Big Apple would likely be cheap.
Which of these WR's would be the best option for the Giants
He has a wealth of knowledge and experience of the Kevin Gilbride system and a natural comfort level with Manning. If Smith could recapture his 2009 form, even signing with the Eagles may be forgiven.
The Giants have young players like Jerrel Jernigan who could try to step up and replace Manningham. However, they don't want a repeat of the 2010 season when too many young pass catchers were overwhelmed by the extra responsibility and the offense suffered from their mistakes.
Any one of these three veterans would offer useful experience and a reliability the Giants will need as they attempt a title defense.
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