The free agency period is always a tough one to figure out with the New York Giants.
There are some years when the team is very inactive in free agency and, instead, relies upon the draft to rebuild the team. And then there are those years where they make a splash and sign big-name players.
For instance, in the offseason before 2009, the Giants added free agents like Chris Canty, Michael Boley and Rocky Bernard. Yet last year, the biggest names that the Giants added in free agency were Martellus Bennett and Sean Locklear, and they didn't cost the Giants that much money.
The Giants have to find a way to get under the salary cap before the 2013 season because they're roughly around $5 million over the cap right now.
At the same time, though, the Giants finished 9-7 last season and missed the playoffs after winning Super Bowl XLVI just one year ago, so Giants GM Jerry Reese will definitely be looking to make this team better.
Part of that strategy should include bringing back the key parts of the team that helped the Giants win the nine games that they did last season.
So what players do the Giants absolutely need to re-sign for 2013? Lets take a look.
Before the 2012 season, we all wondered who would be the next Brandon Jacobs.
During the year, Andre Brown showed the Giants that he could be that short-yardage back who can get that one-yard, or even get into the end-zone when needed.
In 10 games, Brown had 73 carries for 385 yards with eight touchdowns, but he was lost for the season after breaking his fibula against the Green Bay Packers in Week 12.
Before 2012, Brown bounced around the league between a couple of different teams before landing back with the Giants in 2011. He finally got a chance to play regularly in 2012.
Brown won't break the bank if the Giants decide to bring him back, and because he's the bruising back that differs from the speedy styles of David Wilson and Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants should look to keep Brown for 2013.
Three of the Giants starting offensive lineman from last season are scheduled to become free agents, and two of them must be brought back.
The first is starting left guard Kevin Boothe, who once started out as a backup on the Giants, but has since played both guard positions and center during his time in New York. In 2011, Boothe finally solidified the left guard position, and he continued to play well in 2012.
If the team does not re-sign Boothe, there aren't too many left guards out on the market that will be as consistent and as affordable as he is.
Boothe will be 30 years old by the time the 2013 season kicks off, so I could see him being re-signed for another two or three more years.
The other starting offensive lineman that the Giants need to bring back for 2013 is left tackle Will Beatty.
For the longest time, Giants fans waited to see when Beatty would develop into the type of player that they expected him to be after he was drafted in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
He eventually got the chance to be the starter in 2011, but then he had to miss the rest of the season due to an eye injury. David Diehl was forced to move back to his spot.
Yet, in 2012, Beatty did not miss a start and played very well at left tackle for the Giants.
Beatty could get a decent raise in free agency, but he'll still be more affordable than Jake Long, another free agent left tackle who will be looking for top dollar this offseason.
The 27-year-old should get a nice four or five-year deal, and hopefully, it will be with the Giants.
It was a rough season for the Giants place kicker.
Late in the season, Lawrence Tynes had three-straight games where he missed an important field goal, one of which came in a game against the Washington Redskins that could have won the game for the Giants.
Despite the late-season struggles, I think Tynes will still get another chance to be the kicker for the Giants, mostly because there aren't any other options better than him out there.
Remember, Tynes is still the same kicker who nailed the game-winning field goal in each of the team's last two NFC Championship appearances. Also, while the distance on his leg has always come into question, his consistency has never really been an issue.
I could see the Giants giving him a one-year deal so that he could try and redeem himself, but I would not be surprised if another kicker is brought in during training camp to compete with Tynes.
In 2012, Martellus Bennett left the shadows of Jason Witten and the Dallas Cowboys in hopes of finding a starting position. He got that opportunity with the Giants and showed that he can be a reliable option for Eli Manning in the team's offense.
In his first full season as a starting tight end, Bennett had 55 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns, which are pretty good numbers for someone who was only used as a backup for four years in Dallas.
The loss of both Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard, due to injuries in Super Bowl XLVI, forced the Giants to go out and get Bennett in free agency on a one-year deal. Yet he ended up being a complete bargain.
I think Bennett will look for more of a pay raise in 2013, but I think that he really likes playing for the Giants and likes the idea of being a weapon in the Giants offense.
Bennett needs to be brought back on a multi-year deal this spring.
The injuries to Kenny Phillips may force his departure from the team. But it has also been the emergence of Stevie Brown that could truly signal the end for Phillips.
With Phillips sidelined for a good part of the season, Brown used that opportunity to make a name for himself by becoming a ball-hawk on defense.
Brown had a total of 76 tackles with a team-leading eight interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2012.
He's a restricted free agent in 2013, but Jerry Reese knows that he has found a gem with Brown, and he will not let him walk away this spring.
At 25 years old, Brown could get a nice five-year deal from the Giants to continue being that ball-hawk and playmaker in the secondary.
Of all the free agents the Giants have, Victor Cruz is the absolute top priority on the list.
He's a restricted free agent, so teams can attempt to sign him to an offer sheet, but the Giants can match any offer that another team tries to make.
With the team apparently putting more of a priority on signing Hakeem Nicks for the long-term, I could see the Giants using the franchise tag on Cruz for 2013 and look to re-sign to a bigger deal in the future.
Jerry Reese knows how important it is to have Cruz in the lineup because the combination of him and Nicks makes for one of the most lethal wide receiver combinations in the entire NFL.
Cruz has also put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for the Giants, after he recorded 1,092 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012.
As long as Cruz is willing to work with the Giants and Jerry Reese, I see no reason why Cruz isn't back in 2013 doing more salsa dances in the end zone at MetLife Stadium.