Ranking the Giants’ top off-season priorities

This version of the 9-7 Giants didn’t translate into a Super Bowl-bound time.

As the media gathers in New Orleans, New York Giants players are watching from their couches as a new king of the football world is crowned on Sunday.

Owner John Mara and GM Jerry Reese expressed their dismay with the team missing out on the playoffs this season. Obviously, change is on the horizon.

Here is a list of the Giants’ top five off-season priorities, ranked in order of importance.

1. Revitalizing the pass rush

Big Blue has earned a reputation for harassing the quarterback. When you ask coaches, players and fans how the team won their two Super Bowls against New England, their eyes will glow as they discuss how the Giants’ defensive line dirtied Tom Brady’s jersey, over and over again.

This off-season, decisions must be made on key cogs from those championship-caliber D-lines, including defensive tackle Rocky Bernard and ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.

Re-establishing that dominant pass rush, whether it’s through re-signing the veterans or drafting young replacement — even dropping a pretty penny through free agency — in a must if the Giants want to improve their defense.

2. Pay the stalwarts 

A number of prominent Giants’ contracts are set to expire this off-season, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

Big uglies such as guard Kevin Booth and tackle Sean Locklear are deserving of new deals — as well as Will Beatty, whose deal expires at the end of next season.

Victor Cruz, who has been involved in contract negotiations for the bulk of the past, is also due.

The Giants’ offensive line allowed a league-best 20 sacks of Eli Manning this season, and Cruz proved to be the offense’s most consistent and dynamic playmaker.

As Teddy KGB would say, pay that man his money.

3. Revamping the corps

The Giants’ linebacking corps proved to be a glaring area of weakness this season, as injuries and inconsistency plagued the unit.

Chase Blackburn led the team with 98 tackles, but his contract is up. Keith Rivers, who battled injuries for the majority of the year, is a free agent in 2013.

I don’t believe the Giants are confident Mark Herzlich is the middle backer of the future, and the team is in desperate need of an emotional leader like Antonio Pierce.

Manti Te’o was mentioned earlier as a first-round selection connected to New York, though obviously recent controversy has muddied those rumors. Regardless, the Giants need to rebuild the unit through the draft and/or make a splash in free agency.

The linebackers were a part of D that allowed the eighth-most rushing yards per game this season.

4. Configuring a secondary

How the Giants approach their secondary this off-season will likely dictate the defense’s success in 2013.

Safeties Kenny Phillips and interception leader Stevie Brown, who emerged in Phillips’ absence, are free agents. The Giants will likely only bring back one to fill the strong safety position.

Cornerback Corey Webster is a candidate for release if he is unwilling to restructure his deal. Losing Webster, who has served as the Giants’ top corner since their ’07-08 Super Bowl run, would only be feasible if Giants coaches were confident Prince Amukamara and/or Jayron Hosley are capable of filling that void.

5. Replace the leg

Big Blue finished with one of the best marks in the league in terms of made field goals this season (33), but Lawrence Tynes converted just 85 percent of kicks, which ranked 17th in the league.

Tynes was not the rock he has been in seasons past. His contract expired at season’s end, and it has been proven in recent years a kicker can be found after the NFL Draft for cheap (i.e. Justin Tucker of the Ravens went undrafted out of Texas and made 30-33 for the Super Bowl-bound Ravens).

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