Don't expect the Giants to undergo a major retooling this offseason.
That was the message delivered by Giants general manager Jerry Reese on Monday, the first day of the team's offseason. Despite the disappointment of having followed last year's stunning run to a Super Bowl victory with an equally stunning collapse, Reese believes the team has a "good core of players." He said he won't be looking to make wholesale changes.
"I don't think we're that far off, to be honest with you," Reese said of what it will take to get the team back to championship caliber. "This team will look a little different next year, but I think we have a good core of players coming back and I think we can see what we can do in free agency in the offseason, and of course we always have the draft."
The Giants have 25 players not under contract. Among them are wide receivers Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon, safeties Stevie Brown and Kenny Phillips, linebacker Chase Blackburn, kicker Lawrence Tynes and tight end Martellus Bennett.
Though a good number of the players expect to be back, more than a few seemed to be taking a good, long look around the locker room Monday just in case it was their last day at the practice facility.
"You do think about it. Is this going to be the last time in the building?" Hixon said, adding that he would like to be back. "There's guys under contract and they know where they are going to be. And for a lot of other guys, it's up in the air."
Brown is one restricted free agent who is pretty sure he'll be back in this locker room next year. Brown, who led the team with eight interceptions, said he was told by Reese on Mondaythat the Giants will make him an offer.
"I'd like to stay around," said Brown, who became a key member of the defensive backfield when asked to fill in for the injured Phillips. "I think I did enough for them to want to keep me."
Phillips also said he'd like to be back, adding that he had a frustrating season after injuring his knee against the Eagles in September.
"Whatever happens happens," Phillips said. "At the end of the day, I know I will be playing somewhere. Whether it be here or somewhere else, I will be playing football."
Bennett is one player who definitely would prefer to play here. In fact, he likes the Giants so much that he would like them to sign his brother Michael, a free-agent defensive end who played for Tampa Bay this year.
"I think this place has been great," Bennett said. "I love the organization, the team, the city, the fans. I love everything, and you always want to be in a place where you love everything."
Reese said he already has begun taking the first steps in retooling the team.
"The evaluation process has started already," he said. "We'll put our heads together, we'll let the emotions die down a little bit and step back and really see what happened and why we are not playing right now."