Letting a 25-year-old who’s made three Pro Bowl appearances go seems like a poor move by the Giants. So why is New York letting Landon Collins walk?
The Giants finished last season with an ugly 5-11 record. It’s clear GM Dave Gettleman needs to significantly upgrade the talent available to coach Pat Shurmur. That’s why letting Landon Collins leave in free agency seems like a really strange plan for the franchise.
According to Ian Rapoport and Kim Jones, that’s just what the Giants plan to do. Evidently the organization “loves the player” but they don’t think he’s worth the $11.5 million he’d make via the franchise tag. Instead, it seems that the three-time Pro Bowler is headed towards the open market.
Collins will join some other really talented safeties in this year’s free agency clash, but he figures to have a number of interested suitors. Established Pro Bowlers of his age don’t often come available at any position. Safety may not be the most valuable position in the NFL today, but every team needs a reliable guy to protect the final third on defense. Collins shouldn’t have any trouble finding a long-term deal that will make him a very rich man.
The more interesting thing to look at is what the Giants are thinking with this move. Michael Thomas figures to move into one of the starting safety spots, but there’s no clear internal candidate to play next to him. It’s reasonable to expect New York to find a partner for Thomas either in free agency or the draft.
Given their unwillingness to pay Collins, no one should expect Gettleman to rush to sign another big-name, veteran free agent safety to a big deal. That rules out players like Tyrann Mathieu and Earl Thomas. It’s possible the Giants could try to find a bargain late in the free agency period, but that would be taking a pretty big risk with an important starting position.
Instead, look for New York to spend one of their early draft picks on a guy they believe can step right in and start at safety. The trick for the front office will be finding a player capable of playing right away who makes sense when their pick comes up. There isn’t a safety worth taking at No. 6. The team’s lack of a third round selection also complicates things. Taking a safety on the second day of the draft might be the only thing that really makes sense for the team. Waiting until round four to grab a starter would be too big a gamble.
Jonathan Abram or Deionte Thompson would be solid selections if either player slips out of the first round. Other guys who could be in the mix for the Giants in the second round are Nassir Adderly, Taylor Rapp and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Relying on a second rounder to start Week 1 isn’t ideal, but it could work for Shurmur and his coaching staff.
The other salient question for the Giants is how they will spend their cap space in the offseason. In theory, letting Collins go will give the franchise a chance to spend the money earmarked for him elsewhere. In particular, look for Gettleman to use the space to address his team’s needs at offensive tackle and/or the defensive line. He’s a big fan of spending his team’s resources in the trenches.
In the end, it’s still a tough pill to swallow for Giants fans looking for their team to significantly improve in 2019. Letting one of the team’s best players leave for nothing isn’t the ideal way to restock the roster.