INDIANAPOLIS — The uncertain future of Landon Collins with the New York Giants has become one of the biggest story lines at the NFL scouting combine, and it’s looking more and more that he could be playing elsewhere this season.
In a span of 72 hours, the speculation regarding what the Giants will do about the pending free agency for one of their best players has been completely flipped.
There was strong belief earlier this week that, despite whatever drama spilled out with Collins’ departure from the team’s facility for the remainder of his offseason, the Giants would not let the three-time Pro Bowl safety walk.
That’s no longer the case, and momentum is starting to build — albeit mostly through speculation behind the scenes here — that Collins might not get the franchise tag by Tuesday’s deadline after all.
And if that were to happen, the 25-year-old would become a free agent and the likelihood of a return to the Giants would be slim.
Another former Pro Bowler and big-ticket player from the Giants’ outstanding 2016 defense could be on the move as well. NFL Network reported Friday that the Giants have entertained discussions about trading Olivier Vernon. If they are unable to find a suitor, the end result could wind up as a release of Vernon as a salary cap casualty, a source indicated to NorthJersey.com and USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey.
Vernon’s cap hit this year is $19.5 million, and if he were to depart, the Giants would be responsible for $8 million of his salary in dead money with a total cap savings of $11.5 million.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman certainly didn’t close the door on the possibility of allowing Collins to hit the market in his news conference Wednesday. He talked about the financial implications of the tag – expected to be worth $11.2 million for 2019 – and how tying up that amount of cap space without the promise of a long-term extension could compromise what the Giants are trying to do in free agency.
Another league source indicated Friday that there has still been no communication regarding a new contract between the team and Collins’ representatives.
“These decisions aren’t made in a vacuum,” Gettleman said. “So many things come into play.”
And as suggested previously here, if the Giants were to tag Collins, without any movement on a new deal, the former second-round pick from Alabama would be looking at an extended absence from any team activities, quite possibly lasting until training camp, preseason and beyond.
Could some of this be posturing on Gettleman’s part, as much as it is Collins’ representatives as both sides jockey for position, especially in the court of public opinion? Of course.
Giants coach Pat Shurmur said he believed the contract situation with Collins was “reported with too much drama than what actually happened” last week. Gettleman also suggested that a potential contract impasse with Collins, who would have the right to not sign the tag, hoping to create movement toward a new deal, could be an unwanted distraction.
With five days remaining before a final decision on the tag, the Giants are absolutely keeping everyone guessing — Collins and the rest of the league included — about what their next move will be.