NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – The Giants already started preparing to defend their Super Bowl title, just days after winning their second NFL championship in five seasons.
General manager Jerry Reese said during a conference call Thursday he expects a strong core of players to return next year, but cautioned “there will definitely be some changes.” That’s no surprise considering 20 players are set to become unrestricted free agents in March.
“We’re in the early stages of our evaluation of all our players,” Reese told WFAN’s Boomer & Carton on Friday. “We haven’t made any decisions on what we’re gonna do with respect to anybody at this point.”
Listen: Reese with Boomer & Carton
(Download the full interview HERE.)
The Giants, just 7-7 with two games remaining in the regular season, finished with six straight wins, including a 21-17 victory over New England last Sunday in the Super Bowl. It was the second time coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning beat Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots for the title.
Chemistry and camaraderie were among the chief reasons the Giants were able to overcome a four-game losing streak and rebound to win the NFC East title in the last game of the regular season.
“We had talented players, we got talented coaches, gotta have a little luck to get to that point,” said Reese. “We definitely had some valleys and we definitely had some peaks. We finally started to put it together late in the season and got on a hot streak. And here we are.”
Wide receiver Victor Cruz emerged from nowhere to become a household name. Now he wants to be paid like one.
“I mean, I feel like after my performance this year, you know, I feel like I deserve to be paid more money at this point,” he told ProFootballTalk.com on Thursday. “But that’s something I’ll let my agents and those people take care of and I’ll just go out there and play the game.”
“Everybody on the roster who helped us win the Super Bowl wants to get paid,” Reese said Friday. “That’s just the way it is.”
Only four of New York’s starters will be free agents: tackle Kareem McKenzie, linebacker Chase Blackburn, cornerback Aaron Ross and punter Steve Weatherford. Wide receiver Mario Manningham, defensive end Dave Tollefson, defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, cornerback Terrell Thomas and safety Deon Grant are among the key players that could test free agency.
Manningham, who lost his starting job to Cruz, could get plenty of attention on the open market after making a sensational 38-yard catch on the Giants’ go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter against the Patriots.
“Again, we haven’t even had a meeting yet,” Reese told Boomer & Carton. “We’re still in the evaluation process. We’ll talk about every single person on the roster and where they fit and how they look in the future for us.”
One of the top offseason issues involves Osi Umenyiora’s contract situation. The two-time Pro Bowl defensive end was a training camp holdout last summer, and had harsh words for Reese after not getting a contract extension.
“Personally, give him what he wants,” defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said of Umenyiora’s contract situation Wednesday, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “Osi’s a great player and I’d love to play with him for the rest of my career until he’s ready to leave.”
Umenyiora is slated to earn $3.975 million next season in the final year of a seven-year deal he signed in 2005. He had nine sacks in nine games in 2011.
“You play 23 games, including the preseason,” said Reese. “We’re a little bit behind in respect to the offseason preparation.”
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