The New York Giants are no longer reigning Super Bowl champs, following the Ravens' victory on Sunday night. So let's look toward 2013 with a position-by-position breakdown of the Giants leading into the scouting combine and free agency.
Overview: Nicks had surgery to repair a broken foot last spring and was never the same after that. He injured his knee in the second game of the season and, while he valiantly gutted his way through pain, Nicks' injuries had a severe impact on the offense. The Giants missed his big-play ability as a deep threat to take attention off Cruz, who still collected his second straight 1,000-yard season and scored 10 touchdowns to earn Pro Bowl honors.
The Giants tried to replace Mario Manningham by committee with Hixon, Barden and Randle. All three showed flashes, but the Giants needed a consistent third threat.
Free agents: Cruz (restricted), Hixon, Barden.
2013 personnel preview: There is some uncertainty surrounding Cruz, who could receive an offer from another team which would give New York a high draft pick if they opt not to match (likely a first-round pick if Jerry Reese makes the highest RFA tender, as expected). Still, the Giants should have both Nicks and Cruz back this season.
Getting a healthier Nicks back is a must if the Giants' offense is going to do big things. Cruz should only get better with another offseason of work with Eli Manning and will benefit greatly from having a healthy Nicks. Also, having a consistent third receiving threat is key. The Giants are hoping Randle is ready to step up, and he should grow even more this offseason. The Giants could bring back Hixon and Barden. Still, Jernigan could have an opportunity to move up the depth chart.
Salary cap situation: The Giants want to lock down their receiving tandem of Nicks and Cruz for years to come. Nicks is entering the final year of his deal and the Giants made it a priority to extend his contract, since they consider Nicks their No. 1 receiver. They definitely want to keep Cruz, who has been extremely productive in his two seasons as a starter. But they can tender Cruz an RFA tender to keep him for this season and continue to work out an extension. Cruz has not revealed how he would feel if the Giants hand him a RFA tender and an extension is not reached by early March. So we will have to keep an eye on how it all plays out, but Cruz has always handled everything with class.
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