To everything, there is a season. For the New York Giants and its fan base, the season has been magnificent. The offseason, however, may prove to be somewhat of a double edged sword. There are some very key players who are now Free Agents and they just might find themselves in different colored jerseys in the 2012 NFL season - about the same time that they receive their Super Bowl rings.
In this edition, we will take a look at the wide receivers whom we stand to lose, if the price is not right. Interestingly enough, two Free Agents on the market this offseason are two of the best receivers that Big Blue have had on their roster, Plaxico Burress and Steve Smith. Is it likely that these used-to-be fan favorites will find themselves catching a pass from Eli Manning in the 2012 season? Not unless they're playing safety for the opposition. Let's take a look at the receivers who may or may not be on the chopping block.
First up, and probably the biggest FA question of the New York Giants offseason, is Mario Manningham. Mario was the G-Men's third-round draft pick in 2008. Manningham came from the Michigan Wolverines where he put together 137 receptions for 2,310 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Wolverines list him as one of the members of their "Team Of The Decade."
Manningham has played his entire four-year NFL career with the New York Giants. He was used minimally in his first year, having only caught four passes. In 2009, his second year, he had the second most receiving yards on the team. His impact on the Giants' passing game was undeniable from that season on.
In 2010, Manningham maintained his second place status as a Giants receiver. But with only three more receptions than the previous year, he managed to surpass his reception yardage best by one-hundred and twenty-two yards. He was and is, without a doubt, a serious deep ball threat and a clutch receiver. The "Man2Man Connection" (Manning to Mannigham) is something to behold.
This past season, Mario was not utilized as in years past, largely due to Victor Cruz. But would the Giants have made the playoffs, survived the run to Indianapolis and come out champions of Super Bowl XLVI if it were not for mario Manningham? The short and undeniable answer, no. The "Man2Man Connection" late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVI, will forever go down in history as one of the most perfectly executed plays in the NFL. Football scholars could endlessly dispute about which was the more crucial and graceful portion, Eli Manning's pass or Mario Manningham's catch.
There is no doubt that Mario Manningham has been an instrumental part of the New York Giants, since being thrown full force into the fray. He is a receiver who can do it all. The same could have been said about Steve Smith, who the front office somehow let slip through their fingers last offseason. That move proved to be the best thing for the G-men, of course. So, the question could be raised - does Eli Manning make his receivers look better than they actually are? With Mario Manningham's contract up, a guy who has only fumbled twice in his entire career, one half of the "Man2Man Connection" - do you strut 'em or cut 'em?
Next up is Domenik Hixon. Hixon is in his sixth season in the NFL, fourth with the Giants. Domenik sat out all of the 2010 season due to an injury he suffered in the first Christening practice of MetLife Stadium. Hixon has no stats for 2006 and only a fumble for 2007 (as a Denver Bronco). He was acquired from the Denver Broncos in the 2007 season, in which he recorded one reception for five yards and one rushing attempt for negative-eight yards. Of his six years in the league, Hixon has only started ten games. Giants fans are certainly familiar with his receiving skills. His season ending injury against the St Louis Rams showcased his playmaking ability and that he would go to any lengths for his team.
In the three full years that Hixon put in with the Giants, he established himself as the best kickoff returner in franchise history, something the G-Men have been lacking ever since. He holds the franchise record for most kickoff return yards in a season, 1,291 and most returns in a season, 57. Hixon's back-to-back seasons ending injuries leave plenty of room for questions. Since he sat out all of 2010 and just about all of 2011, there is no way, by any stretch of the imagination, that he could honestly expect more money if contract negotiations are to be had between him and the front office. That could leave the Giants with a hell of a steal..or a soon-to-be name on the pup/IR list. Domenik Hixon, do you strut 'em or cut 'em?
Lastly, we have a player who was one of the reasons that the Giants made it to the Super Bowl, Devin Thomas. Without the famed strip from Jacquain Williams, near game's end against the San Francisco 49ers, and Devin Thomas' recovery, the G-Men may never have been singing "I Got A Ring" on the way back home from the Super Bowl. This guy was definitely "All In" when it mattered and fought his way down field, every step of the way, to make that recovery. But is that enough to save him?
The Giants picked up Thomas in 2010, after the Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers released him. Three teams in one year - that's got to be a record. As a receiver, he only had three receptions, this past season, for thirty-seven yards. But it was his ability to return the ball that made him useful. The return game for Big Blue was not what one would call effective last season. In fact, special teams was a huge hinderance. Matt Dodge, 'nuff said.
Devin Thomas had four more kick returns than last year's leaders, D.J. Ware and Darius Reynaud, who were both tied at twenty-one. What Thomas did with those four more returns was surpass Ware and Reynaud by one-hundred and seventy-five yards. To sum up, Devin Thomas is the best return man that the Giants have had since, guess who, Domenik Hixon. You have to appreciate what Thomas did this season as a return man. Giants fans will have to keep a special place in their heart for his game cinching fumble recovery. But, as the saying goes, you don't have to go home but you can't stay here. Do you strut 'em or cut 'em?