By Don Banks
February 04, 2008

PHOENIX -- The Giants' Super Bowl win on Sunday night will rightfully take its place among the greatest upsets in NFL history. New York was just the fifth wild-card entry to win a Super Bowl, and the first from the NFC.

But before we all get caught up in the giddy question of whether Tom Coughlin's pugnacious team might have launched its own little dynasty in the process of smashing New England's dreams of a perfect season, we offer the following sobering reminder: In the past seven NFL seasons, no other team besides the Patriots has made it to multiple Super Bowls. That's 11 different Super Bowl teams out of a possible 14 berths. The NFC alone has had seven different champions the past seven years.

So while the Giants are undeniably well-stocked with young talent at key positions like quarterback, running back and defensive line, their Super Bowl success does not ensure much of anything for 2008. With the long NFL season over, the offseason has begun for all 32 teams. Here's a snapshot look at how the two Super Bowl teams stand as they head into the personnel acquisition portion of the NFL's calendar:


New York is projected to have about $20 million to work with under the $116 million cap (which is up $7 million from last year's $109 million), and that's a better position than the Giants were in last year at this time. In terms of salary cap room, New York is in the upper third of the league. Even better, the Super Bowl champs don't have a very daunting list of its own free agents to worry about, so general manager Jerry Reese has said the Giants should be able to do their fair share of shopping in the market.


Locking up starting free safety Gibril Wilson is New York's clear-cut No. 1 priority in terms of its own unrestricted free agents. Safety is already a weak spot on the depth chart, and losing Wilson would only compound the problem. The Giants would also like to retain weakside linebacker Kawika Mitchell, although they won't break the bank for him because they're also high on Gerris Wilkinson, a promising second-year player who performed behind Mitchell in 2007.

New York's other free-agent linebacker, Reggie Torbor, became a starter only after 2006 first-round pick Mathias Kiwanuka -- a converted defensive end -- was injured and lost for the season. The Giants are not expected to make much effort to keep Torbor. New York will gladly let defensive tackle William Joseph reach free agency. The team's 2003 first-round pick missed almost all of the season with a back injury and has been a complete bust in his five years in New York.

The Giants would like to retain soon-to-be 42-year-old punter Jeff Feagles, and during Super Bowl week Feagles didn't sound like a guy inclined to retire even if he finally won a ring in his 20th NFL season. New York could keep kicker Lawrence Tynes, but his inconsistency could also prompt the Giants to look in another direction.

Given Ahmad Bradshaw's emergence, reserve running back Derrick Ward will probably be allowed to walk, as will longsnapper Ryan Kuehl. The Giants had two rookie snappers this season, Jay Alford and Zak DeOssie, and both were solid. No. 3 quarterback Jared Lorenzen could return, but only for a minimum deal, with the realization that New York wants an experienced backup behind Eli Manning.


First-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo made a heck of a job audition tape Sunday night for the Redskins' head-coaching slot. His Giants held the most prolific scoring offense in NFL history to just 14 points, and 4.0 yards per play. Spagnuolo is expected to interview with Washington early this week, and if he's on his game, he could wind up with the offer and beat out presumed front-runner Jim Fassel.

Other than that, New York is expected to reward once-embattled head coach Tom Coughlin with a four-year contract extension in the range of $20 million. Stability has not exactly been the byword in New York during Coughlin's tenure, but the Giants will enter the 2008 season with pretty much the exact same cast of characters.


The Giants earned the 32nd and final slot in the first round with their Super Bowl victory, but that will really be the 31st selection overall since No. 31 New England is forfeiting its pick as part of its punishment for the Spygate incident. New York's draft needs include offensive tackle, receiver, cornerback and safety if the team loses Wilson.


The Giants were road warriors in 2007, going 10-1 and then winning the neutral-site Super Bowl against a Patriots team that seemingly had a much bigger fan base in the stadium on game day. Maybe as a reward, their 2008 schedule doesn't look that difficult. New York draws only six games against 2007 playoff teams (with four of those coming against NFC East rivals Dallas and Washington) and seven games against teams that had winning seasons this year.

The Giants have the weak NFC West in intra-conference play (at Arizona and St. Louis, home against Seattle and San Francisco), and their four AFC interconference games are against the North Division, where trips to Pittsburgh and Cleveland should be challenging. In addition, the Giants have a road game at Minnesota, and we know what havoc the Vikings defense always seems to wreak on Eli.


The Patriots are roughly $10 million under the $116 million cap, but that's a projection with some flexibility built into it. They could make even more room for themselves without too much trouble, thanks to some rather hefty option bonuses that will force them to make decisions on receivers Donte' Stallworth and Kelley Washington by the end of the month. Stallworth has a $6 million option bonus due by Feb. 29, and if picked up, it'll extend his contract through 2008. He gets another $2 million for being on the roster on March 1, so in essence it's an $8 million decision. Washington has a $4 million option bonus that would extend his deal four years if New England activates it. Odds are Stallworth stays, and Washington's option is declined.


New England's two big issues are No. 1 cornerback Asante Samuel and No. 1 receiver Randy Moss. Samuel was franchise-tagged last year at $7.79 million, but as part of the agreement to get him to report to the team, the Patriots agreed to not franchise him again in 2008. Samuel is expected to be looking for a deal that will exceed the eight-year, $80 million contract ($22 million guaranteed) that San Francisco gave cornerback Nate Clements last year, but he won't find that kind of money coming from New England.

The Patriots would love to retain Samuel, especially since it's widely expected that their division rivals, the Jets, will make a big run at him. But while New England is willing to exceed what it paid Samuel last year, it's hard to see the Patriots paying top dollar. That's not New England's style. Samuel seems to know he has played his last game as a Patriot and struck a "life goes on" tone after the Super Bowl Sunday night.

As for Moss, both sides will be motivated to strike a deal. Moss repeatedly said last week that he wants to retire a Patriot, and even Tom Brady came out and in essence said that he and No. 81 are a package deal. The Patriots are counting on Moss being happy enough and smart enough to keep a good thing going, but New England knows it must take the same approach. It can't insult Moss, who earned $5 million this season while setting an NFL record with 23 receiving touchdowns.

If he accepts the Patriots' winning-team discount, our best guess is that Moss settles for something in the $7 million-a-year range.

As for the Patriots' other free agents, Troy Brown is expected to retire, and there could also be decisions to make on aging inside linebackers Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi. Both could return at the right price, but you could say the same for the likes of Jabar Gaffney, Eugene Wilson, Randall Gay and special teamers Larry Izzo and Lonie Paxton. If the Patriots lose Samuel, locking up Gay as his replacement could be prioritized.


There was pre-Super Bowl speculation that the Redskins would interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for their head coaching job, but perhaps New England's desultory showing on offense against New York will leave Washington less motivated. Either way, McDaniels was not expected to garner serious consideration, but most thought he'd be willing to interview for the experience it would provide.

There's been some buzz that University of Virginia head coach Al Groh might want to hire Patriots defensive line coach Pepper Johnson as his defensive coordinator, but it's not known if the interest is mutual.


You might have heard about the Patriots having to forfeit their first-round pick for their part in a little controversial video-taping incident in September ... But don't fret, because in addition to that No. 31 pick, New England also owns the draft's seventh overall selection, which was obtained in a draft-weekend deal with San Francisco last April. If the Patriots see Samuel sign elsewhere, filling their need at cornerback makes the most sense with their top 10 pick.


The Patriots are definitely going to get their frequent flyer miles in next season. They've got the NFC West for their interconference opponents, and the AFC West for their four-game intraconference slate, and when you add it all up, it means New England will have four cross-country trips in 2008: at Oakland, San Diego, Seattle and San Francisco. And that doesn't even include the Patriots' toughest game of all, at Indianapolis, where they'll get a look at the Colts' new Lucas Oil Stadium.

On the plus side, New England's home schedule is cushy soft. Based on 2007 records, the Patriots will play just one home game next season against a winning team: Pittsburgh. All told, New England has just four games against teams that made the playoffs this season, one of the league's lowest amounts. Dare we say it? Could another run at perfection loom?

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