EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Landon Collins was once certain he’d spend his entire NFL career with the Giants, but after nearly being traded last week he’s now not so sure anymore. There have been no talks about a long-term contract, and he’s not even sure they’ll give him the “franchise tag” — a tag he absolutely doesn’t want.
So as the Giants begin the second half of this lost season on Monday night, the 24-year-old Collins will be playing out the string in limbo. He wants to return to the Giants in 2019.
He’s just not sure they still want him.
“I don’t know,” Collins told SNY on Wednesday. “Does it make me wonder? Yeah. It definitely does.”
The 24-year-old safety has been wondering since last Tuesday, the day before the trading deadline when he got a shocking text from his trainer, former NFL safety Ryan Clark. Collins had heard the rumors that the Giants were having a firesale and he knew his name was part of the speculation. He just didn’t believe the Giants would actually do it — until Clark, who also works as an ESPN analyst, texted him that he heard a trade was in the works.
The text “messed up my head,” Collins admitted. He had his son on his lap when he read it and had to put him down. He reached out to his agent, who confirmed the rumors were true.
And suddenly Collins’ future with the Giants didn’t seem so certain at all.
“It surprised the hell out of me,” Collins said. “It was a big eye-opener. If they’re rebuilding, they can rebuild without me. And I’m so young still, but they could still try to find younger and put the money elsewhere, into whatever they need to put it into to rebuild their team.”
The Giants weren’t actively shopping Collins at the trading deadline, but an NFL source told SNY they did get multiple offers. One offer included a third-round pick, which the source believed got the Giants’ attention. But in the end, their price was believed to be at least a second-round pick, and probably more.
None of the interested teams — which the source said included the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Bucs — were willing to go that high for a player unsigned after this year.
The fact that Collins is still unsigned only adds to his uncertainty about the Giants’ plans. Collins said there have been no conversations between his agent and the Giants’ front office about a new contract. He watched the Giants spend last offseason on players like left tackle Nate Solder and linebacker Kareem Martin and even running back Jonathan Stewart, and then he saw them move quickly to lock up Odell Beckham Jr. to a massive, $95 million deal.
But they’ve yet to turn their attention to him.
Though they can still open up talks at any time, even Collins admits the most likely scenario is that the Giants slap the “franchise tag” on him before the free agent signing period opens in March. That would likely guarantee him about $13 million in 2019, but it would keep him off a market where he could probably find a deal worth $50 million over four seasons with more than $20 million guaranteed.
That’s why he has no interest in getting the franchise tag.
“Honestly I don’t want it,” he said. “I know what type of player I am. I’m going to bring forth hard-work, talent, play-making abilities to the game each and every week. Why would I want to play under a one-year deal? If something happens I’m not guaranteed. And even though I’m guaranteed that for a year, I’m still not guaranteed.”
Of course, Collins knows that if the Giants use the tag “I don’t have a choice.” He’s can solicit offers, but given that any team that signs him would have to forfeit two first-round picks to the Giants in return, the reality is that no team is going to do that.
So eventually he’ll just have to sign it whether he’s happy about it or not — although probably not right away.
“It is what it is,” Collins said. “If they franchise tag me I have to go from there. I can’t go nowhere. There’s not much I can do.”
In the meantime, all Collins can do is hope that the Giants’ rebuilding plan includes him. The “nerve-wracking” hours around the trading deadline shook his belief in that. He still wants to finish his career in New York. But for the first time, he’s considering the possibility that he’ll be playing somewhere else.
“Yes, I want to be here,” Collins said. “At the end of the day, I’m here with my boys, I’m glad to be here with them and I’ll finish this year out with them. If I’m here with them again I’ll be happy with it. If not, I’ve got to still move on and do my job somewhere else.”