While New York Giants' general manager Jerry Reese conceded that there's a "75 percent chance" Super Bowl hero and soon-to-be-free-agent Mario Manningham won't return to the Giants, sources at this weekend's NFL scouting combine said there is virtually no chance he is back with the club.
Instead, they said, Manningham is expected to follow former Giants' assistant Mike Sullivan to Tampa Bay. Sullivan, who was the Giants' quarterbacks coach, recently took a job as Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator.
Manningham was the Giants' third leading receiver last season with 39 catches, but he recently told The Vindicator of Youngstown, Ohio, that he "wants the ball more." With Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz each producing over 1,000 yards in receptions last season, that is unlikely to happen in New York.
But there are other reasons Manningham won't be back, sources said. First, they said, he would know Sullivan's offense, so there is no learning curve. Second, people close to Manningham indicate that he wants to go to a warm-weather club, and last time I checked Tampa Bay qualified on that score. Third, sources said the Giants probably wouldn't make him a contract offer, not only because they believe his price may be too high but because they're more interested in a wide receiver who can line up at more than one or two spots at the position, which, they said, Manningham cannot.
Manningham's season may have turned out quite differently had he not concussed himself in Week 2. Had he caught Eli Manning's deep pass cleanly, he probably would have scored from 53 yards out. He did make the catch, but stumbled and hit the turf so hard that he left the game and missed the following game against the Eagles. Victor Cruz emerged in Weeks 3-5, catching 17 passes for 369 yards and three TDs, and never looked back.