INDIANAPOLIS - Using the franchise tag on safety Landon Collins seemed like a no-brainer decision for a Giants team that admittedly lacks impact players on defense. But Giants GM Dave Gettleman made it sound like using the tag on the 25-year-old safety would cause a lot more problems than it's worth.
Without directly addressing Collins' situation, Gettleman threw the safety's future up in the air when he spoke to reporters at the NFL scouting combine on Wednesday afternoon. He spoke of the salary cap problems the tag could create, and the dangers of using it on an unhappy player. He wouldn't rule it out, but he didn't exactly embrace the idea either.
"These decisions aren't made in a vacuum," Gettleman said. "So many things come into play."
And it seemed as if most of them were working against the idea of Collins being back with the Giants in 2019.
Maybe the biggest factor working against Collins is that he has made it clear he doesn't want to be tagged. He told that to SNY back in November and has reiterated it several times since. And last week, a source said that Collins is "frustrated" by the fact the Giants don't seem interested in giving him a long-term contract. And that came after a report suggested Collins had cleaned out his locker and did not expect to return.
Those are headaches that Gettleman made it clear he does not want or need.
"So let's go to the conversation of eliminating distractions," he said. "You tag a guy. He's mad. And that's all you guys are going to write about. For six months it's what it's going to be. So I have to say to myself, 'Is it worth it?'"
He had a similar conversation with himself back in 2016 when he was the GM of the Carolina Panthers and cornerback Josh Norman was unhappy with the franchise tag. Once Gettleman realized a long-term deal wasn't going to happen and Norman wasn't going to be less of a distraction, Gettleman shocked the NFL world by rescinding the tag, freeing one of the NFL's top cornerbacks to sign with the Washington Redskins.
He certainly could do that with Collins - tag him, and later rescind it. But Gettleman also made it sound like the Giants don't really have enough money to afford the $11.2 million tag for Collins in the first place. The Giants have an estimated $27 million in space under the salary cap - a number Gettleman didn't dispute, though he said the number they have to actually spend is much less.
"You've got to go into the season with $8-10 million in space," Gettleman said. "If you don't go into the season with $8-10 million in space, if someone gets hurt, you're playing a rookie. And I've been in that shoes as a pro guy, where they come in and 'So and so is hurt, however Dave we've got no money so it's got to be a practice squad guy.'
"So you've got to say to yourself: '$10 million goes here.' So now that conversation (about the franchise tag) is different, isn't it? 'Man, they've only got $17 million left.'"
Of course, last year they went into training camp with only $2-3 million in cap space. They then created more cap room by restructuring the contract of cornerback Janoris Jenkins. They could do that with Jenkins again, or perhaps with linebacker Olivier Vernon. But that's another thing Gettleman doesn't seem to want to do.
"We did make a cap move on a player last year. You're right. We had to," he said. "You don't want to do that. You do not want to do that. Because that's kicking the can, kicking the can, kicking the can …"
None of that bodes well for Collins' tenure in New York, though Gettleman likely won't make that decision until much closer to the March 5 deadline. There have been no talks on a contract extension, according to a source, and Collins is looking to be paid like one of the top safeties in the league - perhaps with a deal worth $12 to $13 million per season.
That means the franchise tag is the only option - and it seems like much less likely an option than it did just a few days ago.