Money talks, people. So in an attempt to help determine who might be hungrier than others in 2012, we're taking a look at players from each NFC East team that are headed into the final year of their contracts.
Today, we focus on the New York Giants, who have two particularly important defensive players slated to become free agents after the season in defensive end Osi Umenyiora and safety Kenny Phillips.
The perennially disgruntled Umenyiora was essentially given a raise earlier in the offseason, mainly so the Giants could get him on the field and keep him happy. But the team has repeatedly refused to give the 30-year-old a long-term contract in his desired price range.
With Jason Pierre-Paul now a star and Justin Tuck already locked up for the next two years, there's a very good chance Umenyiora walks after this season. The good news, though, is that he's going to be playing his butt off in preparation for free agency.
The 25-year-old Phillips was one of the best safeties in the game last season. He had a career-high four picks and 82 tackles and was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the sixth-best safety in the league.
But Phillips is entering the final year of his five-year rookie contract with the Giants, and the team might still be concerned about the severe knee problems that cost him much of his 2009 season. If not for that red flag, he'd already be onto his second pro contract.
Now, he'll have to stay healthy for one more season. Giants fans will hope that he can keep building on a spectacular finish to 2011, and playing for a new deal can only help.
Of course, then there's a risk they lose him to free agency, but they'll cross that bridge when they get to it. For now, the team should soak up what it has left with both Umenyiora and Phillips. The state of their contracts indicates it could be a big year for two of their most talented defensive contributors.
Other Giants entering contract years:
Will Beatty: The team's starting left tackle is in the final year of his rookie contract. This is a huge, huge year for Beatty.
Chase Blackburn: He's the starting middle linebacker and he's only 29 years old, yet he only has a one-year, $825,000 contract. A big season could change everything for Blackburn in 2013.
Victor Cruz: He's actually only slated to become a restricted free agent after this season, which means it's highly unlikely he goes anywhere any time soon.
Domenik Hixon: He's playing under a one-year contract. If he can prove he can stay healthy in 2012, that'll change next offseason.
Keith Rivers: He was signed to a one-year prove-it deal this offseason, but he has the skills to earn a long-term contract. He just has to stay healthy, which is easier said than done.
Other Giants playing for long-term deals:
Which of these players should be the biggest priority for the Giants?
Michael Boley: He'll be 30 this season but another solid year will likely result in Boley looking for a long-term extension before he enters a contract year in 2013.
David Diehl: His contract expires after 2013, but by then he'll be almost 33.
Linval Joseph: He's halfway through a four-year rookie contract that would see him become an unrestricted free agent in 2014. If he has another stellar season, expect the young defensive tackle to push for an extension next spring.
Hakeem Nicks: Nicks has two years left on his rookie deal, putting him in pretty much the same spot Joseph is in.
Justin Tuck: Tuck will also be entering a contract year in 2013, but unless he really steps up this year, the Giants won't have much incentive to give him a long-term deal next offseason.
Corey Webster: In this category, Webster has to be a priority for the Giants. He's easily their best corner and they'd prefer to keep him from free agency, which is two years away.