- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Make sure to add New York Giants' Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham to the notable list of unrestricted free agent wide receivers expected to be available when free agency begins on March 13.
Manningham, 25, saw his regular-season numbers drop off this past year due to the emergence of Victor Cruz, but the wideout came up big in the postseason. The Michigan product caught a touchdown in each of New York's three playoff victories leading up to the Super Bowl. Against New England, Manningham caught fire in the fourth quarter, hauling in four of his five catches, including an amazing 38-yard reception down the sideline that proved to be the most pivotal play of the game.
"I just go out and do my job," Manningham said. "I know that plays are going to come. You have to have a short-term memory playing wide receiver. Just take advantage of every ball that comes your way. I knew I had to freeze my feet when the ball touched my fingertips. Wherever I was at when the ball hit my fingertips, I just froze my feet and fell. I knew I was either going to get hit or hit the ground. I knew something was going to happen, but I knew that I couldn't let that ball go.
"Eli (Manning) just put the ball on the money. Great pass protection, great ball. I knew where I was on the sideline. I knew I didn't have that much room. Good thing I wear (shoe size) 11s, because if I wore 11.5s, I don't think I'd have been in."
Originally a third-round (95th pick overall) draft choice by the Giants in 2008, Manningham enjoyed modest success in his second campaign (57-822-5) before he set career-highs in 2010 with 60 receptions for 944 yards and nine touchdowns. While it's unlikely he would solve all the Bears' issues at receiver, Manningham would certainly upgrade a group that failed to have a single member crack 40 catches or 750 yards last year.
"You can't forget about him," Cruz said. "All these playoffs, he's been making great catches and great moments. It's just a credit to his professionalism and the way he's carried himself. He's somebody I look up to. He has some years in this league. I'm just happy for the guy. He's made some clutch catches and has great moves. He comes up big when we need him most."