Best of 2012: New York GiantsTake a look at the best photos from the 2012 New York Giants season.
The major pieces are back: General manager Jerry Reese, coach Tom Coughlin, quarterback Eli Manning, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, both coordinators and (probably) receiver Victor Cruz. The Giants did release veterans Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Boley and Chris Canty, but there is young depth at those positions. The David Wilson-Andre Brown combination looks ready to carry the load at running back. Plus, Reese has earned a level of faith throughout the years to keep the team in the hunt without a complete rebuild.
Biggest free agents
» WR Victor Cruz: Cruz is restricted, but it's hard to believe some team wouldn't be willing to give up a second-round draft pick for the young Pro Bowler. The two sides sound like they are far apart in negotations, but there's no way the Giants will let him walk after consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
» LB Chase Blackburn: Led the team with 93 tackles and added three sacks, an interception and four forced fumbles. He was a full-time starter for the first time in 2012, but will turn 30 years old in June.
» LT Will Beatty: Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 4 free-agent tackle based on his performance last season. The 2009 second-round draft pick will turn 28 in March and has his entire career ahead of him. The Giants locked him up with a five-year deal.
What they need
Consistency, especially on defense. The Giants looked like the best team in the NFL at times and didn't make the playoffs in 2012. The defense allowed the second-most yards per game, but had the No. 12-ranked scoring defense. That often means too many big plays. The run defense ranked No. 25 and the pass defense was No. 28. That's very un-Giant-like. Injuries haven't helped the offense, but Manning needs to live up to that elite status on a weekly basis. They'll also need some offensive line help if Beatty and Boothe leave via free agency.
Offseason crystal ball
The Giants remain a championship contender that will make smallish tweaks without a disruption of their core. The organization has missed the playoffs just three times in the last eight seasons. The Giants will continue to have a puncher's chance with Manning under center, but their defense was the problem in 2012 and that's something Coughlin won't accept.
Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.