By Rich Tandler
The New York Giants have 21 players on their roster who will be unrestricted free agents on March 13. One of them made the play of the game in the Super Bowl and he happens to play a position of great need for the Redskins.
Mario Manningham, a four-year veteran out of Michigan, managed to keep both feet inbounds after catching Eli Manning’s pass in a very tight window in the late going on Sunday. The result was a 38-yard gain that jump-started New York’s game-winning touchdown drive.
The Redskins have been looking for a quality wide receiver corps ever since the Posse broke up in the early 1990’s. Vinny Cerrato tried to rectify that problem by drafting receivers Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas in the second round in 2008. The Giants took Manningham a round later.
It is safe to say that the Giants made the wiser pick. In the 2010 season Manningham had 944 yards receiving. That exceeds the combined career receiving yards of 847 posted by Thomas (482) and Kelly (365). To be fair, Manningham has had Eli Manning throwing to him. Even on days when Eli isn’t quite elite is still far superior to the parade of washed up and mediocre quarterbacks Thomas and Kelly had to deal with in Washington. Still, the difference in productivity is striking.
Kelly spent 2011 out of football while Thomas will get a Super Bowl ring as Manningham’s teammate on the Giants. Thomas played most only special teams, catching just three passes this year.
Being better than Thomas and Kelly, of course, is not a very high bar. That 2010 season was Manningham’s best with 60 receptions for 944 yards and 9 touchdowns. He was pretty good in 2009 also (57/822/5). His rookie season was pretty much a washout with just four receptions in eight games and in 2011 his production plummeted (39/523/4) due in part to injuries and to the emergence of Victor Cruz as a playmaking threat. He did rebound some in the postseason with touchdown catches in each of New York’s three playoff games
Manningham, who will be 26 before next season starts, would be an upgrade over much of the current Redskins receiver corps. Considering his age and productivity eh would be better than all except Jabar Gaffney and Leonard Hankerson. But the temptation to look at him as a top receiver and pay him like one after he made one great catch should be avoided. He’s a good No. 3 receiver and changing teams to one with an inferior receiver corps will not make him a better player. He is likely to be looking for more money than a third WR should get.
Not that Manningham wouldn’t be a good addition to the Redskins receivers but if they want him they need to pay him based on his talent and not based on the mediocrity of the current receivers on the team.