Landon Collins made it very clear in an interview with SNY back in November that he doesn't want the Giants to use the "franchise tag" on him. But some time in the next two weeks, that's very likely what he's going to get.
The two-week window to use the franchise and transition tags opened on Tuesday morning, and -- to no one's surprise -- the Giants are considering using the tag on the 25-year-old Collins. According to multiple sources there has been very little talk or progress on a long-term deal for the three-time Pro Bowl safety. So the tag -- which teams have until March 5 to use -- is the only way for the Giants to keep Collins from becoming an unrestricted free agent on March 13.
The projected cost of the franchise tag for safeties is about $11.2 million and there are some who doubt whether Giants GM Dave Gettleman would be willing to pay that much for one player at that position. But Collins is one of the few impact players on a Giants defense that needs a lot of work this offseason. The last thing Gettleman needs is another hole to fill.
Plus, the Giants clearly want to keep him. As SNY reported, several NFL teams were interested in acquiring Collins at the trade deadline in October, including the Buccaneers and Chiefs. The Giants had at least one offer of a third-round pick, according to a source, but told teams they wouldn't deal him for anything less than a second -- a high price to pay for a player who was unsigned beyond the end of the year.
So even though the Giants are projected to have only about $28 million in salary cap space, according to Overthecap.com, tagging Collins would be the smart move. It buys them time to make sure he's fully healthy after the shoulder surgery that ended his 2018 season back in early December. And it gives them time to work on a long-term deal that might be easier to absorb on their cap in future seasons.
That's almost always been the way the Giants have used the franchise tag - which they've used on tackle Jumbo Elliott (1993), running back Brandon Jacobs (2009), punter Steve Weatherford (2012) and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (2015, 2017).
With the tag, the Giants and Collins would have until July 15 to work out a deal before his only option would be to play out the 2019 season on the tag. He could also solicit offers from other teams, but any team that signed him to an offer sheet would owe the Giants two first-round picks as compensation if the Giants didn't match it.
That obviously is not likely to happen.
So the tag makes sense, and they are not expected to get any pushback from Collins either, even though he made his strong feelings on the tag clear in that November interview with SNY.
Asked after the season, though, if he would play on the tag or perhaps hold out in the hopes of forcing the Giants' hand, Collins said "I mean, I got no choice to play on it. It's not a big concern of mine. I know what I'm capable of. I think we'll work something out before that. If not, franchise it is. Just got to continue proving myself as my worth."
What is Collins' worth? Right now, the top safety contract belongs to Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who signed a six-year, $78 million deal in 2017 with $40 million guaranteed. Though Collins will surely ask for that, a long-term deal is more likely to fall somewhere between that and the franchise tag in terms of average annual value. So figure $11-13 million per year with more like $20 million guaranteed.
He'd surely get at least that if he hit the open market in March, since he'd likely be one of the Top 20 players available -- maybe even the Top 10 depending on how many tags are handed out in the next two weeks. That's a big reason why the Giants have to tag him. They need pass-rushing help and maybe some help at cornerback, not to mention reinforcements along the offensive line.
They can't afford to have to use their limited resources to replace a top safety like Collins, too.