Landon Collins wants to return to the Giants, the team that moved up in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft to take him out of Alabama then made him a fixture in their defensive backfield.
Collins’ four-year contract is up and he knows the Giants can keep him off the free agent market by slapping the franchise tag on him. If that is the route the Giants take, it would guarantee Collins about $11 million for the 2019 season, but prevent him from striking a long-term deal with another team.
Players around the league have balked at this scenario and refused to report – see running back Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers for details. Collins, though, sounds as if he is ready for whatever comes his way.
“Would I play on it?’’ Collins said Monday, referring to the franchise tag. “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.’’
The Giants could opt to let Collins test free agency, but that is unlikely, considering how shabby their defense was this season and the dearth of quality players at safety on the roster. Collins, a team captain who never comes off the field, started 47 of the 48 games his first three years and the first 12 games this season before an ailing shoulder landed him on injured reserve. He showed up in the locker room with a sling on his left shoulder after undergoing surgery to repair a partially-torn labrum. It is a 3-4 month recovery timeframe but it should not affect any negotiations Collins has with the Giants.
For the third time in four years Collins was selected to the Pro Bowl but it was not a vintage year for him, nothing close to this breakout 2016 season (125 tackles, five interceptions, four sacks). Collins had 96 tackles but no sacks or interceptions and was not around the ball as often as in the past, working in a secondary alongside free safety Curtis Riley, whose struggles in coverage were often glaring.
Franchise tags can be applied from Feb. 19 through March 5. Collins is in the final year of his original four-year, $6.1 million rookie contract and clearly has earned a significant raise. The Giants likely want to work out a multi-year deal with Collins, as long as the price is right. He does not want to go anywhere.
“My hope is to be here, honestly,’’ Collins said. “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.’’