Since arriving in New York as an unheralded seventh-round pick in the 2007 draft, Ahmad Bradshaw has been the consummate overachiever.
First he broke through a seemingly impenetrable depth chart in his rookie year and rose to become a contributing factor during the extraordinary Super Bowl run in January 2008.
Then he outworked and outperformed the higher paid and more heralded Brandon Jacobs, stealing the starting role last season.
He's a classic undersized runner: not drafted in a high round because of his lack of size but a ferociously tough player who plays hard all the time.
Added to that, he has an explosiveness that few players in the NFL can match.
His contract is up, which is a blow for the Giants because they had him at a bargain and now have to either pay up or watch him walk.
He'll be heavily courted by a slew of teams, so here's a look at some of the rumors about him and the Giants running back situation
For whatever reason, the Giants have had very good success in the last few years accumulating talented running backs.
New York hierarchy will hope this trend continues since they added a highly talented unknown quantity in Maryland runner Da'Rel Scott.
Like Bradshaw, Scott comes to the Giants as a seventh-round draft pick, relatively off everyone's radar.
In college, he was up and down. In 2008, he rushed for 1,133 yards and had nine total touchdowns. But the next season, his production fell off due to injuries, and he managed only 536 total yards.
This past season, he split carries in the Maryland backfield with Davin Meggett (son of former Giants great David Meggett). On only 122 carries, Scott picked up 708 yards rushing with five touchdowns.
He also became one of the only Maryland player to run, receive and pass for a touchdown in the same season in the school's history.
That he was drafted isn't necessarily a sign that the Giants are going to not resign Bradshaw, but if the Marshall man doesn't return, then Scott will have to be a factor in replacing him.
If the situation wasn't already complicated enough, the long tentacles of the NFL lockout have wrapped themselves around free agency, shrouding it in even more uncertainty.
Because there is not current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in place, there is no way to know what Bradshaw's status as a free agent is.
Under the old rules, he would be a "restricted" free agent because the Giants placed a second-round tender on him, meaning that in order to leave a team would have to match or surpass New York's contract offer and also pay a second round draft choice as compensation.
However, the new rules could be different. There's a chance that Bradshaw might simply became an unrestricted free agent.
This would mean any team could pursue him outright. And the Giants wouldn't get a compensatory draft pick in return.
Much of Bradshaw's (and the Giants) fate will be determined in the new CBA, whenever and whatever it ends up being.
With everything on pause due to the lockout, it means that any minor speculation becomes a full-blown, protracted story.
Case in point: Clinton Portis.
The former Washington Redskin has made his money playing against the Giants in the last few seasons. Now, apparently, he has the intention of playing for them.
This could very well have no impact on Bradshaw's situation (since these sort of rumors happen every offseason).
That said, it's symbolic of what Giants general manager Jerry Reese might see in the market.
If he thinks that the Giants can replace Bradshaw's production with a cheaper veteran and a combination of Da'Rel Scott and D.J. Ware, then a Portis-like deal with another, less coveted running back could be in the works.
The underlying issue isn’t a philosophical difference. It will purely be a business decision, whatever way it goes. As Bradshaw has said, he wants to be back with the Giants.
And I have no doubts the Giants would want him back too.
Yet the problem is whether or not the Giants can afford to have two high paid running backs.
With Brandon Jacobs lined up to make more than $4.65 million in 2011 and $4.9 million in 2012, New York would be hard-pressed to stay under the cap.
Again, much of this question will be answered with the new CBA, but either way, it would be a poor decision if the Giants had two of their highest paid players at the same position.
Still, it's entirely possible that something could be figured out. Jacobs and Bradshaw seem to get along pretty well, and no one can doubt the fact that they compliment each other well.
Giants fans have to feel better about Bradshaw's chances of returning given that he's well liked in the organization and has openly stated he intends to return.
The most intriguing event in the Ahmad Bradshaw story with regards to his impending free-agent situation has to be his switching of agents.
Craig Domann, Bradshaw's previous agent, has been shown the door. And to fill the void, one of football's most notorious agents has stepped in: Drew Rosenhaus.
It obviously doesn't bode well for a Giants front office who will be looking to come to a quick and painless agreement.
And it could be bad news for Giants fans hoping to see number 44 return to Big Blue's backfield for the 2012 season.
As one of the best young running backs on the market (with an astounding career average of 4.8 YPC), New York could be priced out by a demanding agent looking to get his client a massive contract while his value is at its apex.