SAN FRANCISCO (WFAN/AP) — The New York Giants’ hopes of returning to the Super Bowl have taken a hit after Mario Manningham agreed to a two-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday.
Manningham is the second big name receiver to join the NFC West champions during free agency after Randy Moss joined the roster last Monday.
The Giants aren’t shocked that Manningham left considering that he fell down their depth chart after Victor Cruz enjoyed a breakout season in 2011. The Giants could use an internal option to replace Manningham rather than going after a free agent target.
Ramses Barden, Jerrel Jernigan and Domenik Hixon could vie for an opportunity jump up the depth chart or the Giants could acquire a young receiver or two through the NFL Draft.
Now, the big question for the 49ers is who will be throwing them the ball: Peyton Manning or Alex Smith?
The 49ers appear to have interest in Manning after coach Jim Harbaugh worked him out Tuesday at Duke University. Manning worked out for the Tennessee Titans on Saturday and it appears he will now choose between them, San Francisco and the Denver Broncos.
Have the 49ers done enough already to entice him, and show they’re aiming for another shot at the Super Bowl this season?
Agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed Saturday night that Manningham, the former New York Giants wideout, had reached a deal with the 49ers, who lost in overtime of the NFC championship game to Manningham and the eventual Super Bowl champions at Candlestick Park on Jan. 22.
Manningham caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning with 8:34 remaining in regulation of the NFC title game to help New York reach the Super Bowl.
He had five more receptions for 73 yards in the Giants’ 21-17 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots, including an over-the-shoulder 38-yard catch between two defenders on which he managed to stay inbounds to start the game-winning, 88-yard touchdown drive.
The 25-year-old Manningham had 39 catches for 523 yards and four touchdowns total last year in his fourth NFL season.
Manningham will join an upgraded receiving corps that also includes Moss, who signed a one-year contract Monday, and Michael Crabtree, the team’s 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Texas Tech who had 72 receptions for 874 yards and four touchdowns in 2011.
“It’s going down. Mario Manningham signs with 49ers. This is a sick WR squad. It’s going to be crazy on the Offensive side of the ball,” tweeted defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois.
The 49ers, who ended an eight-year playoff drought in Harbaugh’s first season of 2011, also will return their entire starting defensive 11 after bringing back cornerback Carlos Rogers on a $31.3 million, four-year deal this week. So, that too could be attractive to Peyton Manning, even though there’s speculation he would prefer to stay in the AFC and not have to regularly face off with his younger brother.
Smith had been expected to re-sign with the 49ers and acknowledged he was weighing a three-year contract offer — but that all might have changed in a matter of a few days once Manning entered the 49ers’ picture. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on its Web site Saturday, citing a league source, that Smith was considering changing agents from Tom Condon, who also represents Manning.
An e-mail to 49ers CEO Jed York, Smith and agents at CAA Sports went unreturned Saturday.
Giants fans, will Manningham be a significant loss? Let us know below…
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