Now that the Giants have officially declined to use the franchise tag on safety Landon Collins, according to a source, they will surely have lots of excuses for why they didn't. And like it or not, they have many ways to justify why the decision made sense to them.
But there is one part of this the Giants can't explain away so easily: Why, if Collins wasn't part of their future, didn't they trade him when they had the chance?
That is a mystery and some seemingly faulty planning, because they absolutely had the chance to trade the 25-year-old- at the trading deadline back in late October. Multiple NFL sources told SNY back then that several teams - most notably the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - were pursuing Collins. One source indicated one of the offers for Collins was a third-round pick in this draft. But the Giants were holding out for a second and possibly another low-round pick next year, an NFL source said.
That's a fine stance to have, but that's the kind of decision a team makes when it believes it wants to keep a player. The Giants played hardball, it seemed, because they considered Collins a valuable asset and they didn't want to let him walk away for less than they felt he was worth.
And now they're letting him walk away for nothing instead?
That doesn't make sense at all, not even if you assume that Collins will improve the Giants' chances of getting a compensatory pick in next year's draft. Those picks come via a complicated formula that factors in all free-agent signings and departures, how they play next season and the cost of their deals. There are no guarantees, and even if Collins signs elsewhere for big money and has a Pro Bowl season, the Giants still aren't likely to get a pick as high as a third.
So why not take the third when they had the chance? There are only two logical explanations, and neither of them seem logical at all in hindsight. One of them is that they really did value Collins and intended for him to be part of their future, but have since changed their minds. But there's no evidence at all that they've ever engaged Collins in serious talks about a long-term contract. In fact, several sources say the Giants haven't.
So how much could they really have valued him back then?
The other explanation is worse: That the Giants simply didn't have a plan back in October, which is hard to believe because this isn't a first-year GM running a front office filled with rookies. Giants GM Dave Gettleman needed to know for sure what his plan was back then, so he could make the right decision for the franchise. In hindsight, it doesn't seem like he had a plan at all.
So what, then? Surely they couldn't have kept him thinking they were going to make a playoff run, since they were 1-7 at the trading deadline and were already openly musing about benching their starting quarterback. Could something have changed in regards to how they felt about Collins? Maybe. Collins' shoulder injury at the end of the season was concerning, but Gettleman insisted last week that Collins' recovery "is coming along very nicely." And when he laid out his case for potentially not using the tag, he used salary cap space and Collins' unhappiness as his primary reasons, and even hinted that he didn't value safeties all that much. He never even hinted that the injury was an issue at all.
Maybe Gettleman was late in realizing that Collins didn't want the tag and planned, as SNY reported last week, to refuse to sign it until September. Gettleman talked about "distractions" as one reason for not using the tag. But Collins had never really hid his desire not to be tagged, so the potential for distraction was evident even in October. He also said several times he knew he'd eventually have to sign it. Yes, he would've probably held out, but players usually understand when it comes to teammates making business decisions, so that kind of distraction is minimal.
And if you don't believe that, just look back to 2007 when Michael Strahan, the Giants' biggest star, held out all summer before the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that season.
But fine, Gettleman wanting to eliminate distractions is reasonable. His argument about cap space is sound. And if he doesn't value safeties, that's his prerogative. If he prefers to put the bigger money in other positions, he's not necessarily wrong. It's also his right.
But why not walk away from this with something, when there was definitely something on the table four months ago? They knew at the trading deadline that cornerback Eli Apple and defensive tackle Damon Harrison weren't part of their future, so they took the best offer they could find for both of them.
If Collins wasn't going to be part of their future either, they should've done the same when teams came calling about him, too.