Landon Collins never wanted to leave the Giants. He dreamed of becoming a franchise icon, of staying in New York his entire career. It will undoubtedly be tough for him when he signs with another team in the first few days of free agency.
But he's going to get a nice consolation: A very large new deal.
Collins' market is expected to be "huge" according to an NFL source, and he's likely going to get a five-year contract worth at least $60 million and perhaps more than $20 million guaranteed. Now that the Giants have officially refused to place the franchise tag on Collins, making him an unrestricted free agent, there are expected to be several teams going hard after him in the opening hours of free agency.
Here's a look at the teams that figure to be knocking on his door:
Kansas City Chiefs
Call them the favorite for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the presence of their new defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo. Collins' first three NFL seasons - including his best year (2016) - were all under "Spags". And one person who knows both men said they'd each love a reunion. Of course, even without the familiar face, the Chiefs would be attractive based on their 12-4 record and overtime loss in the AFC championship game last season. They've got a lot of good defensive players, including safety Eric Berry. They also tried to trade for Collins at the trading deadline last year, according to a source.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The strength of this team is their offense, but they are trying to change that under new defensive coordinator (and ex-Jets coach) Todd Bowles. Collins surely knows that Bowles' defense did a lot for safety Jamal Adams, so he knows how to get the most out of that position. The Bucs also have the added attraction of former Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Maybe most importantly, the Bucs were among the most aggressive suitors of Collins at the trading deadline last year. There's no reason to think they won't be aggressive again.
The Lions already have a bunch of ex-Giants - DT Damon Harrison, DE Romeo Okwara and LB Devon Kennard - and Harrison began "recruiting" Collins on Twitter as soon as the news broke the Giants were letting him go. Their coach, Matt Patricia, always had good safeties during his run as defensive coordinator in New England, so he knows Collins' value.
They have money to spend and a desire to rebuild their defense in the shadow of the departure of Khalil Mack. And yes, safeties are on their shopping list. "We are looking at the safeties in free agency and the draft," Jon Gruden said. "When (Travis) Kelce is in your division and Antonio Gates is in your division, you'd be looking at safeties, too." Collins isn't the best cover safety on the market, but that might not stop Gruden.
Earl Thomas has long been thought to be the object of their affection, but there were some who were skeptical at the combine about whether that marriage would work out. Collins is five years younger than Thomas and has generally been more durable. One important caveat: On Wednesday, it was reported the Cowboys won't pursue any of the top safeties because they're too expensive. Of course, Jerry Jones is already on record saying the Cowboys will be shopping for safeties, so we'll see.
They spent a fourth-round pick in a trade for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix last season and that didn't work out well. He's now a free agent and not expected to return. The Redskins also cut their other safety, D.J. Swearinger.The Redskins may have bigger needs, but Daniel Snyder has always been known to overspend in free agency on "name" players. No one would be shocked if he does it again.
Green Bay Packers
They were the ones that traded Clinton-Dix, and Brice Kentrell didn't overwhelm anyone as his replacement. Now they've got a new head coach and a little bit of pressure to finally put a championship-caliber team around Aaron Rodgers. Fixing their defensive holes - particularly at safety - is a good way to start.
San Francisco 49ers
Outside of cornerback Richard Sherman, there isn't a lot to like about the 49ers' secondary. They need a better back end to match what has become a strong defensive front - a front that might even get stronger since they're sitting on the No. 2 pick in the draft. The 49ers ranked last in interceptions last season. 49ers GM John Lynch knows a good safety can help change that.
No team has more salary cap space to work with than the Colts, so if they want someone, they'll get him. Their history is not to be big bidders, but Collins might be different. The safety position is a huge one in their defensive scheme, and Collins is a 25-year-old they can build around. They might make an exception here.