John Fennelly, Lead Writer
With the departure of Hakeem Nicks, the Giants were in the market for a veteran wide receiver. They looked over the free agent eligible list and decided to bring back Mario Manningham, the Super Bowl XLVI hero who has spent the past two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.
Have they chosen familiarity over production and upside? Perhaps. Manningham has been plagued by an unstable left knee the past several years, although it is now stable enough for the Giants’ doctors to give him a clean bill of health. He has always been a favorite of QB Eli Manning and the Giants’ front office. Another positive is his age. He turns 28 in May.
The real questions are, how much does he have left and what are the Giants expecting of him?
This time around, the Giants are getting a seasoned veteran in Manningham not the 21 year-old greenhorn they got out of Michigan in 2008.
“Mario is really excited to be a Giant again. He can hardly contain himself,” said head coach Tom Coughlin at the league meetings last week. “He’s physically and mentally matured.”
Of course, the expectations are also a bit lower this time around. Mario will not be asked to do too much of the the heavy lifting, giving way to the three players ahead of him on the depth chart. He’ll add some depth, fill in the blanks. That’s what the Giants were looking for this offseason, if you recall. A veteran presence at WR.
The WR unit currently consists of Pro Bowler Victor Cruz, and (like Mario) two other former high draft picks in Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan. The Giants will likely use Randle mainly on the outside and flip flop the other three between the slot and the other wing.
That is, of course, they don’t fall into Texas A&M WR Mike Evans in the first round of the draft. That would change everything.
In short, the Giants are bringing in a trusted entity they hope can overcome physical issues and become a productive player again. Health will dictate Mario’s participation. If he’s right, the Giants may just may recapture some of that old magic this season.
The skinny on Mario….
The Line: 4 seasons, 50 games, 160 rec, 2,315 yds, 18 TDs for the Giants between 2008-11; 2 seasons, 18 games, 51 rec, 534 yds, 1 TD for the 49ers in 2012-13.
After a modest beginning to his career here in New York Manningham, the Giants’ third-round draft choice back in 2008, emerged on the scene in 2009 with a 57-catch, 822 yard season in which he scored five TDs in 14 games played.
In 2010, Mario became a mainstream producer, catching 60 passes for 944 yards and nine TDs while playing a full 16 games, the only season during his career in which he’s done so.
In 2011, Manningham missed four games but still put up respectable numbers for a No. 3 WR (39 rec, 523 yds, 4 TD).
He leveraged his 2011 postseason notoriety into a two-year, $7.375 million deal with San Francisco. Manningham was productive (41 rec, 449 yds, 1 TD) in 2012, but only played in 11 games. A shoulder injury sidelined him before tearing the PCL and his ACL in his left knee in late December.
He began 2013 on PUP, limiting him to six games and was basically a non-factor for the 49ers last year.