If you think of Mario Manningham strictly as a puzzle piece, the New York Giants' decision to bring him back from San Francisco makes a lot of sense. It's only a one-year contract, according to NFL Network's Albert Breer, and presumably at close to the veteran minimum.
This is simple. The Giants have to replace Hakeem Nicks from an X's and O's standpoint. Victor Cruz lines up in the slot approximately 70 percent of the time, so New York needs a third receiver who can be split out wide opposite Rueben Randle.
The Giants aren't flush with cash, though, especially after a spending spree during the first week of free agency, and no true starting-caliber wideouts remain in free agency.
This could have been anyone on the diminishing open market. They swung and missed with Jacoby Jones earlier in the process, so Manningham comes from a group that includes similarly talented receivers such as Danario Alexander, Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Lance Moore, Sidney Rice, Kenny Britt and Josh Morgan.
Don't be surprised if they sign another one of those guys between now and July, but there's really no rush. The key was to get one under contract. You know how teams hire "camp arms"? Well, I'd almost look at Manningham as a "camp set of hands." He'll probably make the final roster, but even so, the Giants likely don't expect him to serve in that semi-starting role unless all else fails.
They'd be crazy to lean on him. There's little evidence his seemingly decayed left knee can hold up. Passing physicals is one thing, but the guy was hampered by problems in that knee before he even left New York in 2011. He blew it out in 2012 and was completely useless in 2013. He had only 51 catches and a single touchdown during his two years in San Francisco, and he's been able to make it through only one full season six years into his career.
But Manningham and Eli Manning are familiar with one another, which is probably the sole reason why he was signed rather than, say, Heyward-Bey or Moore or Morgan.
This offseason has been all about sweeping changes in New York. Retooled offensive line, upgraded secondary, new running back, new starting tight end (eventually), big losses on the defensive line. Plus, a new offensive coordinator with a very fresh philosophy.
With that in mind, it couldn't hurt to throw Manning a bone by giving him the guy he went to in one of the most important moments of his career back in the 2011 Super Bowl.
The Giants have added some cheap depth while keeping their quarterback happy. But they can't stop there when it comes to bolstering Manning's weapons. Whether it's another free agent or a draft pick (or both), they have to create competition for that second X/Z receiver spot.
The good news is that there is still plenty of talent on the open market, and this is considered to be one hell of a deep draft for wide receivers. With three of the top 74 picks in their back pocket, and with so many areas of need already addressed, they'll have to strongly consider plucking another one before the second day of the draft is complete.
You can't knock the addition of Manningham, but do not expect the guy to save this receiving corps.
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