When it became clear very early on in the free agency process, and for some even before that, that Mario Manningham was not going to return to the New York Giants, most thought it was due to his desire to play in a warm weather city, and also cash in on a brilliant performance in the Super Bowl.
As it turns out, he signed a two year, $7.375 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers, proving his only desire was to go somewhere he can showcase his skill set.
By the end of the 2011 season, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz had solidified spots as the starting wide receivers. Manningham actually played just as much as the other two, but Eli Manning very obviously favored Nicks and Cruz.
It is hard to fault a guy like Manningham, who is extremely talented but by no fault of his own was replaced as the starter by Cruz. After he concussed himself making a ridiculous catch against the St. Louis Rams in Week 2, he missed the following game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Not one to miss an opportunity, Cruz showed the Giants why they kept him around by hauling in three catches for 110 yards and two spectacular touchdowns.
Over the next couple of weeks they went back and forth in terms of production, but by mid season Cruz became the favorite target of Eli’s. Cruz’s season made Manningham expendable for the Giants, and it also opened Manningham’s eyes to the fact that he wanted to move on.
This was about as mutual as it gets.
For the Giants fans that are wondering how the Giants could not afford to keep Manningham around, he is set to make $4.375 million in 2012. That is a hefty price for a third string wide receiver.
I hope nothing but the best for Super Mario. He was a professional in his time with New York and made one of the best catches in Super Bowl history. Unfortunately the Giants will play the 49ers this year and have to game plan for him, but the NFL is a business and nobody should be criticizing Manningham for seizing an opportunity.