There are many inadequacies, front to back, within the Giants defense and, if that defense moves forward without Landon Collins, there will be another gaping hole to fill. And so, it stands to reason the Giants are unwilling to allow Collins to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
The first opportunity to tag players arrives Tuesday throughout the NFL, a window that stretches to March 5. In that time span, Collins is the only logical Giants candidate to have the franchise tag applied, which would virtually assure he will stay with the team that traded up in the second round of the 2015 draft to take him out of Alabama. If Collins plays on the tag all season, he would earn around $11.25 million and would count that same amount on the 2019 salary cap. That is a hefty chunk to take out of the cap. In the past, the Giants used the franchise tag as a placeholder until they could come to terms with the player on a long-term deal, and that strategy could be in play with Collins.
General manager Dave Gettleman, after his team finished 5-11 in 2018, pinned much of the blame for the losing on a defense severely lacking in playmakers. Collins is one of the few players on defense with a résumé that indicates he is a keeper. He was selected this past season as a team captain and, when healthy, never comes off the field. He started 47 of the 48 games played by the Giants in his first three years, but lasted just 12 games in 2018 before landing on injured reserve. He underwent surgery to repair a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder and is expected to be fully recovered by the summer.
Landon Collins wouldn't fight Giants' franchise tag
Landon Collins wants to return to the Giants, the team…
Collins, 25, outperformed his original four-year, $6.1 million rookie deal. He was selected to the Pro Bowl three times in his four seasons but has not risen to the height he attained in 2016, when he was in the running for defensive player of the year after posting 125 tackles, five interceptions and four sacks. Collins, a strong safety, is more effective the closer he is to the line of scrimmage and the Giants were never able to pair him with a true ball-hawking free safety adept in coverage and cutting off the deep angles.
The Giants have concerns how high the market will get for Collins, as there are several teams with far more salary-cap space. The Giants are about $28 million under the cap and could soon add as much as $10 million in space after the cap expands into the $190 million range.
The highest-paid safety in the NFL is Eric Berry, who averages $13 million per year from the Chiefs. The Giants will not go that high for Collins. Consider the deal for Harrison Smith of the Vikings ($10.5 million average per year) as a comparable contract the Giants would like to use to consider a multi-year deal for Collins.
The best-case scenario for the Giants is to tag Collins now and work out a deal later. This is what transpired two years ago with Jason Pierre-Paul. The deadline for coming to multi-year financial terms with a player on the franchise tag is July 15. Under the franchise tag, Collins can negotiate with another team but if he is signed, the Giants get two first-round picks back as compensation. There is no chance that will happen.
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Collins the day after the season ended, with his arm still in a sling, reiterated he wanted to stay with the Giants but acknowledged he preferred more security than playing on the one-year franchise tag.
“Would I play on it?’’ Collins said. “I’ve got no choice. But it’s not a big concern of mine. I know what I’m capable of. Hopefully we work something out before that. If not, the franchise it is. I’ve just got to continue proving myself.
“My hope is to be here, honestly. I was drafted here. I want to finish my career here. It’s a hope and dream of mine. Hopefully we can make it a reality.’’