The Giants season ended a few days ago and the team has pretty much had one line about failing to make the playoffs.
From Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin on down through the team's players, the reaction has been one of complete astonishment about how the team could have missed the playoffs, a continuation of the season-long shrug of the shoulders that greeted every bad result. It seems pretty clear what the team needs to do in order to make the playoffs, though.
They need to win more games in the regular season and stop leaving their postseason chances in the hands of other teams every year. If you win 11 games, there's rarely going to be a need to check scores from around the league.
That should be the Giants' immediate goal. One way they can do help their chances of doing that is by making the right choices about personnel this offseason, starting with the decisions they make about their own free agents.
There are plenty of them to sift through. We'll profile the biggest names here, starting with three restricted free agents who will almost certainly be back next year before moving into the unrestricted crew.
Victor Cruz: Do we even need to bother explaining this one?
Andre Brown: Brown scored eight touchdowns before breaking his leg, the latest in a series of injuries that have blunted Brown's chances of earning bigger roles throughout his career. Ahmad Bradshaw's status will determine whether Brown gets much time, but it is hard to imagine the Giants don't bring him back if he's healthy.
Stevie Brown: You can't discuss Brown without discussing the next guy on this list, although eight interceptions and solid play after being signed off the street make it a no-brainer to bring him back. His role will depend on...
Kenny Phillips: The talent is obvious and the Giants thrive when they play three safeties because Antrel Rolle doesn't have many pass coverage responsibilities, but it doesn't mean much when Phillips is hurting on the bench more than he's on the field. The Giants can't afford to commit big money to someone so unreliable, especially not when they have a cheaper option on hand in Brown.
Will Beatty: With an offensive line in this much flux, there's no way they can afford to let Beatty leave. He'll be franchised if they can't reach a long-term deal before the deadline to use the tag, which would pay Beatty around $9.6 million for 2013.
Osi Umenyiora: The Giants have too many other needs to pay Umenyiora a big salary, especially when a healthy season bore little fruit in 2012. If they decided to move on from Justin Tuck, there'd be a place for Umenyiora but that seems highly unlikely.
Kevin Boothe: He's similar to Beatty in that the Giants don't have enough on the offensive line to let one of the younger members of the line walk. Boothe is solid rather than spectacular, but there's a place for that on this team.
Chase Blackburn: He's a Catch-22 in the body of a football player. He's a great teammate and helpful on special teams, but you've got problems if he's starting at middle linebacker. By starting at middle linebacker, though, he could wind up costing more than you can pay for a great teammate.
Keith Rivers: Always injured, the trade for Rivers goes down as a worthy mistake for Reese. He shouldn't compound it by re-signing the veteran.
Martellus Bennett: He's erratic and always seems to have a nagging injury, but he proved to be a better player this year than he ever showed while with the Cowboys. He's also the most entertaining quote on the team, which makes us want him back even if he wasn't a productive player.
Lawrence Tynes: Tynes' consistency slipped a little this year, but he'll be back to try to win the job in camp at the very least.
Ramses Barden/Travis Beckum: Barden had one big game in his four years with the team, which is one more than Beckum managed. No place for either one on the team any more.