If you asked the average Giants fan to list the players who were most responsible for the Giants winning the Super Bowl, it would take a while before they got to punter Steve Weatherford.
Weatherford was a vital part of the team, though, and he made his value known in the Super Bowl by pinning the Patriots deep in their own end of the field three different times. One of those punts led to a safety and his strong year of kicking obviously made an impact on the Giants front office.
Just before Monday's deadline to designate an impending free agent as a franchise player, the Giants chose to use the tag on Weatherford. That decision, first reported byPro Football Talk, means it will take two first-round picks for another team to sign him away and that Weatherford will play for roughly $2.6 million unless he and the team come to terms on a long-term contract.
Not bad for a guy who the Jets deemed not good enough to kick for them after the 2010 season.
It's a smart move by the Giants. Weatherford had such a good season for them that he was sure to get plenty of nibbles when the free agent marketplace opens in full on March 13 and the $2.6 million probably represents less than he'd get in an offer from another team.
The tag buys them more time to work out a long-term deal while also eliminating the need to search for another punter that they could trust to get the job done the way Weatherford did on the way to the championship. You need only say the words Matt Dodge to express how scary the alternative could have been if the Giants chose to risk losing Weatherford.
Franchising Weatherford all but ensures Mario Manningham will become a free agent next week. There wasn't any chance he'd get the tag, not when it costs $9.4 million for a wide receiver, and there's little chance Manningham won't at least wait to see if someone was so impressed by his Super Bowl performance that they blow him away with a premium offer.
The Giants covered themselves in the event that Manningham walks by re-signing Domenik Hixon last week. Now they'll move on to dealing with Brandon Jacobs' contract, Osi Umenyiora's annual dithering about a new deal and all the rest of the offseason.
And they'll be doing it with a brand new franchise player in their back pocket.