EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - One of the biggest stars and best players on the Giants is heading into a contract year with no signs an extension is near. He's rehabbing his way back from an injury and is pretty close to being fully cleared by doctors, maybe even in time for the mandatory mini-camp next week.
Yet there are no fears of a contract holdout with safety Landon Collins, and no stress about the situation like there always seems to be with Odell Beckham, Jr. Collins has been with the team all spring. At no point did the Giants flirt with the idea of trading him. And no one has ever thought the two sides were headed in the wrong direction.
But the truth is, just like Beckham, Collins heads into his contract season with something to prove before he lands the big-money deal he desires. And before they give him that lucrative contract extension, the Giants want to make sure he's still the player and leader that they've always expected him to be.
That wasn't the case last season, which was a miserable one for everyone in the Giants' organization, more miserable perhaps for the dysfunctional defensive backs. It's not Collins' fault that three cornerbacks were suspended for violating team rules during the season, but it didn't speak much to the 24-year-old Collins' leadership ability. It also didn't help that his most infamous reaction to it all was to call teammate Eli Apple "a cancer" during a radio interview in December.
His play took a bit of a tumble, too, one year after establishing himself as one of the best defensive players in the NFL. In the preseason he talked openly about being a Hall of Famer someday. During the season he did little to back that talk up.
But it's a new day now for everyone, and Collins is still 24 and loaded with talent. The hope is that as long as he's healthy, last season was just a bump in the road.
"Yeah, we put all of that behind us," Collins said, when asked about the "clean slate" given to everyone by the new coaching staff. "It's a clean season, new coaching staff, new team, new players, it's a clean slate. We just put all of that behind us. What happened then, it happened, we learned from it and now it's time to move on."
The first step to putting all that behind him is, of course, getting on the field. And at the moment, Collins' health is an open question. He fractured his right forearm late last season and needed surgery to fix it. Then in April, doctors determined his arm wasn't healing right and he needed surgery again.
It's been a little more than a month since the second surgery and Collins said he's "very close" to being fully cleared. He's able to participate in individual drills, and can do some team drills - albeit while wearing a red, "non-contact" jersey. But since this is the spring, he said, the doctors are choosing to take it slow.
"Right now we're just taking the precautions, not putting me into the team things, getting my arm caught or anything," he said. "We're right around the corner from the season, so we're not about to risk anything."
Even if everything works out with Collins' health, though, and he re-establishes himself as a leader, his contract situation remains murky. The Giants probably could find the cap room to give long-term extensions to both Collins and Beckham, but it's unclear if GM Dave Gettleman wants to do that. Collins will make $1.269 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract. Given the going rate for the NFL's top safeties, his next deal should bring him an average of $12-13 million per year.
Of course, the Giants could use the franchise tag on him too (at a likely cost of around $10 million) if they don't use it on Beckham. If neither of them sign an extension during the 2018 season, it could make for an interesting game of chicken with the Giants next February as they simultaneously threaten to tag them both, knowing they can only tag one.
But that's for later. For now, Collins is a regular at OTAs with his team - unlike Beckham, who has been a semi-regular, but has been absent since last week. There's no noise about Collins' unsettled contract situation because that's the way he likes it.
And he seems at east with the fact that despite all he's done in his short NFL career, he still has something to prove.
"Yeah, definitely," Collins said. "I've got to come in and say that I can learn this defense, even though I'm not on the field, and put it to the test. And when I get my opportunity to show that I can do it, (I have to show) that me not being on the field (this spring) is not slowing me down."