The Giants have a lot of celebrating ahead of them, and the Patriots have a lot of second-guessing and what-iffing to contemplate in the coming days and weeks.
But the season is over for both teams, and free agency looms on March 13. Let’s have a look at notable expiring contracts for each club:
Giants impending free agents: Receiver Mario Manningham, tackle Kareem McKenzie, cornerbacks Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross, defensive end Dave Tollefson, punter Steve Weatherford, defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, safety Deon Grant, linebackers Jonathan Goff and Chase Blackburn, guard Stacy Andrews, quarterback David Carr, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, offensive lineman Tony Ugoh, defensive backs Derrick Martin and Justin Tryon, kick returner Devin Thomas, and punt returner Will Blackmon.
For the most part, the Giants’ free agents are bottom-of-the-roster types whom G.M. Jerry Reese may attempt to replace in the draft. Though he’s coming off an ACL injury, Thomas may be a priority to re-sign, particularly if Ross tries to strike it rich on the open market. The G-Men may look to get younger at McKenzie, Grant, and Bernard’s positions. Manningham is the prize of the Giants’ 2012 free agent class, and figures to move on to a club offering him a starting job.
Patriots impending free agents: Receiver Wes Welker, defensive ends Mark Anderson and Andre Carter, receiver Deion Branch, running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Kevin Faulk, guard/center Dan Connolly, defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Shaun Ellis, linebacker Gary Guyton, returner/receiver Matt Slater, defensive backs James Ihedigbo, Antwaun Molden, and Nathan Jones, and linebackers Tracy White and Niko Koutouvides.
The Pats are in danger of losing some big-time players. Welker will probably be franchise tagged, but Anderson and Carter were the club’s top two pass rushers in 2011. Green-Ellis was New England’s leading rusher. Connolly is a key and versatile cog on the offensive line. The Patriots will likely try to find a superior vertical threat than Branch. Chad Ochocinco wasn’t the answer and will likely be released.