Wes Welker fully expects to return to the New England Patriots next season, but there are notable players from both teams who will not. Players facing pending free agency after the Super Bowl generally won't discuss their status until after the confetti has been swept away, but the forward looking fan in me can't help it.
That said, here are the players that will likely be playing their final games with their current teams, in the Super Bowl:
The Patriots' leading rusher has done everything the team has asked of him. He pass blocks and he pounds the ball inside. He plays a pretty thankless role in the Patriots' attack. As a pending free agent he doesn't seem like a good shot to return.
Green-Ellis is finishing a one-year, $1.8 million deal. The Patriots will likely offer him another one-year deal. He will likely receive a two-year offer from a team looking to add a physical back to their depth chart.
Financially, that is too significant for Green-Ellis to turn down, and he will leave the Patriots.
Running back is the most expendable position in the NFL, especially when the incumbent isn't a game-breaking back. Green-Ellis' modest 677 yards on the ground make it easy to say the Pats will fill his spot either with Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, a rookie or a free agent.
With the emergence of Victor Cruz this season, the oft-injured Manningham is expendable. The Giants have Hakeem Nicks and Cruz firmly entrenched as starting wideouts. Manningham will receive offers from other teams that the Giants simply aren't willing to match.
Manningham missed four games this year, and his 39 receptions were the lowest of his career since his rookie year.
I expect the Giants to re-sign and vault either Domenik Hixon or Devin Thomas into Manningham's role in the offense. Manningham will in turn be one of the top five free-agent wide receivers in the NFL.
Carter was having a surprisingly great year until he injured his quad against Denver late in the season. Carter had been the only consistent pass rusher the Patriots had all year long, besides Mark Anderson, who equaled Carter's 10 sacks.
That said, at 32 years old, coming off a knee and quad injury, it is very unlikely Carter will be able to replicate his 2011 performance. The Patriots could bring him back in a team-friendly deal, but I say they look to add a free-agent pass rusher to fill the void, as Shaun Ellis may not be back as well.
Ross has distinguished himself as a quality cornerback. He had four INTs this year, and his play in the postseason has been very solid.
Ross will be in high demand this season, and teams in need of a starting cornerback will be on his trail. Ross made $1.3 million this year, and he's in line for a raise.
Will the Giants be willing to bid high enough to keep Ross's services?
I think not. Prince Amukamara is ready to start. Though the Giants will hate to lose Ross, they won't overpay, as the team that gets him will.
I expect Ross to get a three-year deal worth about $5 million or $6 million per year. That is a little bit too steep for a 29-year-old cornerback just now having the best year of his career.