The Giants are waiting around for the NFL and the NFLPA to get a new labor agreement done before the March 4 deadline like everyone else, but as of today, teams are allowed to use the franchise tag for the 2011 season if they so choose.
The franchise tag, if you didn't know, gives a player a one-year contract worth the average of the top five paid players at their position.
Typically the Giants will make an offer and stick to it; if a player gets a better offer they will let them go, just ask Derrick Ward.
The Giants have only franchised two players in their history, Jumbo Elliot in 1993 and Brandon Jacobs in 2009, and Jacobs eventually agreed to a long-term deal so he actually did not spend a season with the tag applied.
However, there are still quite a few top-tier players that the Giants might not be willing to keep long term, but don't want to see them put on another uniform either.
If the Giants actually choose to use the franchise tag, here are four players I imagine they would consider using it on.
Although Ahmad Bradshaw had a career year with 1,235 yards and eight touchdowns, he has still had to have offseason ankle surgery the past two years, so the team might not be willing to sign him to a long-term deal until he proves he can stay healthy for another year.
At the same time, the shelf life of a running back is not very long, so if the Giants intend on keeping him, the only plans they have for him could be a three-to-four year deal.
Bradshaw was an alternate for the Pro Bowl and had a great year, so there is little reason to think the Giants wouldn't use the tag on him other than their history of staying away from it.
The interior defensive linemen for the Giants both had great years. Barry Cofield was in a contract year and will look to be paid big time. He deserves it.
The Giants already have a bunch of money tied up in Chris Canty and Antrel Rolle, as well as Eli Manning and Chris Snee on offense, so if Cofield is demanding the world, the Giants might have to let him test the waters.
This could be the reason for the Giants drafting Linval Joseph in the second round of the 2010 draft; they probably anticipated Cofield wanting to get a pay day.
It would be unfortunate to see him go, but this is a business and we have to trust the Giants will make the right move like they seemingly always do.
Steve Smith's injury was the one that I believe killed the Giants' season. Eli Manning had gotten so used to Smith's precise route running and vacuum hands that when Smith is taken out of the lineup, Eli tries to do too much and doesn't trust the other receivers as much on big plays.
Smith had major surgery to repair his knee and has a long rehab ahead of him. He may not be ready for the start of the 2011 season, so the Giants may be unwilling to give him a long-term deal, despite how successful he has been on the field.
It's a shame that it might come to watching Smith go by the way of free agency—if Eli has anything to say about it the Giants would do everything they can to keep him—but again, this is a business.
However, most of the time guys that work hard (Smith is one) come back from injuries quicker than the doctors anticipate, so if the Giants think Smith will be ready for training camp, they may slap him with the franchise tag to give him a year to shake off the injury bug.
He deserves whatever money he gets, he's a great player.
Giants general manager Jerry Reese has expressed interest in bringing back Mathias Kiwanuka on a short-term deal if it is possible, so if Kiwanuka doesn't go along with that, they may have to franchise him.
Kiwanuka has suffered two different season-ending injuries in his five years with the Giants. Drafted in the first round of 2006 in Ernie Accorsi's last year as the GM, he has been the Giants' most versatile defensive player, and they will not want to lose him.
Both of the injuries he had, from at least an outsider's point of view, do not indicate an inability to stay healthy. They were freak injuries that were unavoidable. In 2007 he suffered a broken leg, and this past year he had a bulging disc in his neck and had surgery to fix it.
That said, the team will not commit long-term money to him because of those injuries, so the franchise tag is definitely a possibility.