Landon Collins
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The New York Giants allowing Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins to walk creates damage on and off the field in more ways than one.

Jason Leach

Drafting an individual and watching them develop into a Pro Bowl player is what all owners wish for every spring. The New York Giants got all of that and more when they traded up in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft to select Landon Collins (33rd overall).

As a rookie, Collins started all 16 games and would lead the team in tackles with 112. He exceeded expectations as a rookie, but it was in his second season when Collins truly flourished.

In 2016, he would once again lead the team in tackles with a career-high 125, and also had a career high in interceptions (5) and sacks (4). He was named to his first Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro team. More importantly, his play helped the Giants to an 11-5 record and a wild-card berth.

If not for Collins, the Giants may not have made the playoffs. He picked up an interception in four games that would help seal close victories. Many felt, due to his play and the impact it had on the team, he should have been named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Collins play dipped in 2017 and 2018, but he was still voted to the Pro Bowl and led the team in tackles despite finishing both seasons on IR.

He missed the 2017 finale due to a broken forearm and missed the last four games of the 2018 season due to a torn labrum. His presence was sorely missed in those four games as the team went 1-3, gave up 215 rushing yards to the Tennessee Titans in their Week 15 17-0 loss, and then 387 passing yards and four touchdowns to Dak Prescott in the season finale 36-35 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Considering how much the defense faltered down the stretch, not having their captain on the field, many felt the Giants would either work out a new deal for Collins or, at the very least, designate him with the franchise tag.

But that was not to be. The Giants informed Collins that they would not apply the franchise tag, making him a free agent.

The decision by general manager Dave Gettleman to let the 25-year-old walk without getting anything in return sent shockwaves throughout the league.

Several current and former Giants expressed their shock and disappointment that Collins would no longer be a Giant.

Everyone knows the NFL is a business and sometimes general managers and owners have to make unpopular decisions. But parting ways with the team’s best defensive player who’s just entering the prime of his career without getting anything in return makes no sense at all. Had the Giants given Collins the franchise tag it would have only cost them $11.15 million in 2019. Not a steep price to pay for a player the caliber of Collins.

If the Giants had doubts on whether they would bring back Collins, they could have traded him in the fall before the trade deadline just as they did with Damon Harrison. It’s been rumored that the Kansas City Chiefs were willing to give up a third-round pick for Collins.

Collins may have been a liability at times in pass coverage, but his suburb tackling, knowledge of the game, and leadership on the field leave behind a huge void.

It’s not just what Collins brought on the field that the Giants will miss; it’s his intangibles off the field. He was well respected in the locker room, showed tough love when it was needed like when he called Eli Apple a cancer in 2017, and organized his softball charity events in the spring that helped bring together current and former Giants.

When free agency begins next week, some team is going to make Collins a wealthy man, and they’re going to get one heck of a player that will make them instantly better.

As for what the Giants will do to replace Collins, we’ll have to wait and see. Perhaps Collins’s replacement is already on the team. Michael Thomas, who stepped in when Collins went down and was also one of the captains last season, is a prime candidate.

Or perhaps Gettleman will draft or acquire Collins successor in free agency. Whoever starts at strong safety next season will have big shoes to fill in more ways than one.

This is not the first time Gettleman parted ways with a Pro Bowl defensive player. When he was the Carolina Panthers GM following the 2015 season, he designated the franchise tag to Josh Norman only to rescind it and let Norman leave via free agency. This decision helped lead to the downfall of Gettleman with the Panthers as they relieved him of his duties in July of 2017.

Now people have to wonder if history will repeat itself because if Dave Gettleman can’t find an adequate replacement for Landon Collins, his tenure as general manager could be over in a New York minute.

Jason's first love was football while growing up in northern New Jersey. For the past three years, he has covered the New York Giants, as well as several boxing events along the East Coast.