Mario Manningham had a fairly disappointing 2011 regular season, as a knee injury and the emergence of Victor Cruz put him in the background at times as he also missed four games. But he made an impact during the Giants' Playoff Run, catching a touchdown in each of the team's first three postseason games and capping it off with five catches for 73 yards against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. His 38-yard catch in the fourth quarter looks likely to stand as one of the most dramatic plays in recent Super Bowl history
Manningham had 39 receptions for 523 yards and four touchdowns during the 2011 regular season, though three of his scores did come in three straight games in late October and early November. He had a breakout season in 2010, setting career highs across the board in receptions (60), receiving yards (944) and touchdowns (nine) as he played all 16 games. He also had a solid season in 2009, with 57 catches for 822 yards and five touchdowns after seeing little action in his rookie season in 2008 on the heels of being drafted by the Giants in the third round out of the University of Michigan.
Manningham will now enter free agency, and even with a fairly deep class of potential free agents at the position could easily find himself sought after by many teams. He is still young, as he'll turn 26 on May 25, so theoretically he is entering his prime and stands to be seeking a more prominent role than the Giants can offer given their wide receiver depth. Any team that can offer a prominent, and more consistent role to Manningham stands to be a team he is interested in playing for in 2012 and beyond.
The Minnesota Vikings clearly need to upgrade their talent at wide receiver, and the route they choose to go in that regard in terms of April's Draft or free agency can still be considered up in the air. Given how deep the free agent class of receivers looks to be, the position should be near the top of the list for new Vikings' General Manager Rick Spielman and his new regime once the new league year starts in March. That would allow other holes in the roster, of which there are many, to be addressed in the Draft and further Spielman's purported desire to infuse some youth across the board.
Given the fact he is coming off somewhat of a down season, Manningham may be able to be signed to an affordable contract, which should appeal to the Vikings (and multiple other teams, clearly). It is possible he will be slightly overrated and possibly overvalued due to his Super Bowl performance, but all things considered Manningham may not necessarily be looking to break the bank and being a starter may be the most important factor for him in making a decision where he signs this offseason. His history with nagging injuries is a slight concern, but his ability as a vertical threat is definitely something the Vikings need and they can obviously offer him a starting job right out of the gate.
A young wide receiver entering free agency looking for a starting job and a team that desperately needs talent at the position? Sounds like a perfect marriage, and the Vikings can and should expect better results from Manningham than they got when they were in a similar position a few years ago and signed Bernard Berrian.