Giants franchise Steve Weatherford

Punter Steve Weatherford wasn't the biggest-name signing of the 2011 offseason, but he was a significant factor for the New York Giants in their run to the Super Bowl title. Weatherford performed and fit in so well that, since the Super Bowl, he and the Giants have been discussing a long-term contract extension. Unable to reach an agreement on terms and unwilling to let Weatherford test the open market, the Giants beat Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline by designating Weatherford as their 2012 franchise player.

What this means, technically, is that Weatherford would be guaranteed $2.6 million this year if he signed the tender and the two sides didn't reach agreement on a long-term deal. But in reality, it means the Giants and Weatherford plan to continue to work out the details of a long-term deal that's very likely to end up being signed before the July 16 deadline. The original intent of the franchise player rule was to allow teams to pin a valuable player in place while it worked toward signing him, and that appears to be what's at work here.

It's the right move for the Giants to keep Weatherford. A team whose 2010 season was done in, in part, by the failure of rookie punter Matt Dodge saw first-hand the impact a great punter could have on its chances. Weatherford was excellent all year and downright brilliant in an NFC Championship Game that was decided by field position and special teams. In the Super Bowl, he delivered three punts that forced the Patriots to start inside their own 10-yard line.