We are just three days removed from the New York Giants 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in the 2012 Super Bowl. The excitement rom the victory, and the celebrations, has yet to wear off. Still, for the Giants it is time to stop looking at how they won the just-completed Super Bowl and begin focusing on what they need to do to get ready for the 2012 season.
Let's look at some of the decisions the Giants need to make.
The Giants have a number of key players hitting the free-agent market this offseason. The biggest will probably be wide receiver Mario Manningham, who made the critical 38-yard catch that began the Giants' winning drive against New England in the Super Bowl. Manningham is an explosive receiver and the Giants would love to keep him, but he is No. 3 on the depth chart behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, and someone might pay him big money to start. Thus, the Giants could lose him.
Kareem McKenzie is an 11-year veteran who will be 33 next season. The right tackle did not play well in 2011, and the Giants could look elsewhere. Cornerback Aaron Ross is also a free agent, and with several players -- including Terrell Thomas -- returning from IR, as well as 2011 No. 1 pick Prince Amukamara being groomed for a larger role, Ross's days with the Giants might be numbered.
Punter Steve Weatherford is a free agent. Coming off a career season it is hard to imagine the Giants letting Weatherford slip away.
Thomas, a cornerback, and middle linebacker Jonathan Goff both missed the entire season with injuries, but are unrestricted free agents. Best guess is the Giants bring Thomas back. Goff's status might be murkier with the young talent the Giants have assembled at linebacker.
Basically, that means we are talking about defensive end Osi Umenyiora and Brandon Jacobs. Whether or not these two veterans have played their final games with the Giants will be among the interesting things to watch playt out this offseason.
Umenyiora, the pass-rushing specialist, will be in the final year of a seven-year, $41 million contract that he has been unhappy with for years. Before the 2011 season he accused general manager Jerry Reese of lying to him, held out for a day to protest his contract, and demanded a raise and a trade -- neither of which he got.
When he returned from injury for the playoff run Umenyiora played the good soldier. He was the No. 3 defensive end in a rotation with Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck, and moved from one side to the other without complaint. There is no way, however, that Umenyiora accepts that kind of role next season and beyond. He sees himself as a premier player, and he wants to be treated -- and paid -- as such.
He is still an excellent pass rusher and you have to wonder if this offseason the Giants might be more amenable to trading Umenyiora rather than going through the annual distractions with him.
Jacobs took a pay cut to stay with the Giants in 2011, a move made so the team could re-sign Ahmad Bradshaw. He was unhappy with his role much of the season, but came around late. He now says he would like to stay with the Giants, something that seemed highly unlikely a couple of months ago. Question is, do the Giants want to keep him around?
The big back is valuable to the Giants in tandem with Bradshaw, but carries a $4.4 million base salary and a $6.8 million cap hit into next season. That is a lot of money for a backup running back who never plays a full 16 games. The Giants might want to move on, giving Da'Rel Scott an opportunity or drafting another back.
Both Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum went down during the Super Bowl with torn ACLs, putting their status for the 2012 season in doubt. Upgrading this position was a possibility before those injuries. Now, drafting a young tight end or scouring the free-agent market for a capable veteran (maybe both) is an absolute necessity.
We have already discussed McKenzie, and know that the Giants have a decision to make there. The changes in the line could go even further, however. David Diehl moved from left tackle to left guard to make room for Will Beatty in 2011, then moved back when Beatty was lost for the season. Diehl, in reality, did not play all that well at either spot. A nine-year veteran, Diehl could find himself at right tackle replacing McKenzie next season. He could find himself at left guard. He could find himself on the unemployment line if the Giants decide that his performance does not warrant the two years and $8 million he still has on his contract.
Could Mitch Petrus move into the starting lineup? Will the Giants use a high draft pick on an offensive lineman? Lots of questions here.
Chase Blackburn did a nice job solidifying the defense after the Giants re-signed him mid-season. Likely, though, they don't see him as a long-term answer. The question will be whether they think they have the answer in Goff, Mark Herzlich or Greg Jones. If not, the use of a high draft pick on a potential starting middle linebacker is a possibility.
There are other questions. How long of a contract extension will they give head coach Tom Coughlin? How much will they have to fork over to satisfy Victor Cruz? Will offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride retire? Can they get a little more speed at safety? Can they find an explosive kickoff and punt returner?
It should be an interesting offseason for the defending Super Bowl champs.