The year began 11 days ago, but for the Giants, 2009 starts today.

That's when they'll begin to assemble, digest what occurred during the season that ended with yesterday's playoff loss to the Eagles - and begin making moves toward Super Bowl XLIV.

"It's a lot of evaluations we have to do and plenty of things to talk about and we'll get right on it," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "Right now, no decisions have been made on anybody."

There are plenty to think about and eventually act upon, though. Here is a look at five of the pressing offseason issues facing the Giants:

WHICH RUNNING BACK OR BACKS STAY?

Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward both ran for more than 1,000 yards in the regular season and both could become free agents this winter. Is there enough in the Giants' budget to keep both of them? "Everything's a possibility," Reese said. "We'll see." The Giants also have Ahmad Bradshaw and presumably Danny Ware to take either spot if one leaves. The two players put in their two cents on the many millions of dollars they surely will command. "I want to be a part of this just as much as the owner wants to be the owner," Jacobs said. "I don't have any doubt in my mind that I'll be here. I think I will be here and that's that. I'm putting myself on this football team next year." Ward was less certain, saying, "It'd be nice to end my career with one team, but it's a business and they have to make business decisions."

PACK YOUR SPAGS?

There are no limitations now on teams interviewing defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who remains a strong candidate for several head-coaching vacancies, including the one with the Jets. If Spags leaves, where do the Giants turn? There are some attractive in-house candidates in linebackers coach Bill Sheridan and secondary coach Mike Giunta. But the Giants also can look outside the organization. Either way, they'll likely fill the spot - if it even opens - with someone who shares Spagnuolo's penchant for blitzing and aggressive play that these particular players seem to respond to.

WHAT BECOMES OF PLAXICO?

Plaxico Burress is due in court March 31 and is facing two felony gun charges in connection with his Nov. 29 accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound. If he's found guilty, it would be the least messy way for the Giants to sever their relationship with the wide receiver, as expected. But Reese left the door open for a possible return. "If everything goes right, yeah, absolutely," Reese said of the possibility of Burress playing for the Giants in 2009. In reality, though, it's pretty far-fetched, and the Giants will be on the lookout for a big target either through trades - Anquan Boldin and Braylon Edwards both could be on the trading block - or through the draft.

LOCK UP ELI

The final year of Eli Mannings current contract is 2009, meaning he could become a free agent after next season. Will it get that far? Unlikely. The Giants probably will work with the quarterback during the coming months on a deal that will make him a Giant for life (or as close to life as you can get in the NFL). Big brother Peyton signed a seven-year, $99.2-million deal in 2004 and Ben Roethlisberger signed an eight-year, $102-million contract last winter. Expect Eli to be in that neighborhood.

FIGURE OUT THE DEFENSIVE LINE

Mathias Kiwanuka moved back to defensive end and had a decent season for the Giants, but next year, Osi Umenyiora will return from his knee surgery and create a possible logjam at the defensive end positions. The Giants could have Kiwanuka, Umenyiora and Justin Tuck vying for time at the two positions. One solution could be to move Kiwanuka back to linebacker, where he played in 2007 before getting injured. Another could be to have the players rotate, which could save them physically as the season goes on. Either way, the Giants need to get deeper on the defensive line in order to avoid the sort of sack swoon they experienced this season.