The Giants just decided to let one of their best defensive players and most important locker room leaders walk out the door when they decided not to place the franchise tag on safety Landon Collins.
OK. Now what?
That’s not an easy question to answer, since the 25-year-old Collins won’t be easy to replace in terms of either his ability or his leadership. Also, keep in mind the lesson from the Giants’ decision to let Collins go is that GM Dave Gettleman clearly doesn’t want to pay a lot for a safety. Besides, he doesn’t really believe he has the salary cap room to do it.
And, for what it’s worth, he doesn’t just need one safety. He really needs two.
So who can they get? There are a few big names available in free agency, but it’s unclear if any of the good ones are players the Giants want to pay or can afford:
Tyrann Mathieu, Texans
An interesting, but sure a far-too-expensive option. The Texans are reportedly trying to sign him long-term, and he’s a legitimate player who will surely get top dollar somewhere. He used to play for current Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher in Arizona, and surely Bettcher would want a reunion. It’s not his call, though.
Earl Thomas, Seattle
He’s 30 and coming off an injury, but he’s still one of the best safeties in the game. Of course, he was ticked off last year when he didn’t get a new contract – and more ticked off when he got hurt waiting for his pay day. He’s going to want more than Collins, and he’s expected to get it from the Dallas Cowboys.
Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Redskins
His stock dropped after the Packers traded him to the Redskins midseason and he struggled in Washington. He could be more of a bargain and he’s better in pass coverage than Collins was — which seems to be important to the Giants.
Adrian Amos, Bears
He’s not the biggest name on the market, but he’s 26 years old and nearly as highly regarded as Collins is. He’s a player a defense can build around, and he’s almost certainly going to get a Collins-like contract that puts him far out of the Giants’ range.
LaMarcus Joyner, Rams
On talent alone he figures to command a top pay day, but the 28-year-old struggled last year when he played under the franchise tag. One of these safeties is likely to be left out of the high end of the market, and his off season could keep his price down. Could the Giants get him on a shorter, less risky deal?
Tre Boston, Cardinals
Another top, young safety who is only 26. He was hoping to cash in a year ago, but was forced to take a one-year, $1.5 million deal when the safety market dried up. There doesn’t seem to be any way it dries up enough again, and he’s made it clear he wants to get paid.
Kenny Vaccaro, Titans
Injury issues and a collapsed market led him to a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Titans last season. This might be his last chance to cash in, but his value likely won’t be too high. The Titans are trying to re-sign him, with GM Jon Robinson calling him a “primary target” for the Titans in free agency. He will be in the second tier of safety deals, though, which should be where the Giants are shopping.
Eric Weddle, Ravens
The six-time Pro Bowler was surprisingly cut on Tuesday and he could be an interesting, short-term solution for the Giants even though his best days are behind him. He’s 34 and entering his 13th NFL season, but he could be a valuable addition at the right price. The Giants’ other safety figures to be a 30-year-old Michael Thomas, so they better find a young safety to groom if they go this route.