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How the Colts can land Landon Collins

Chicago Bears v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

News broke this week that New York Giants starting strong safety Landon Collins had cleaned out his locker at the Giants team facility. Then that news un-broke, in a way, when journalists said Collins’s locker was, in fact, not cleared out as there were still belongings in it. Finally, the news re-broke that Collins locker was cleared out and all the items left in the locker Collins did not want or need. The source of the final news was Collins himself, which seems pretty definitive.

It’s been widely reported Collins is unhappy with the situation in New York. To this point, there have been no known long-term contract talks and Collins has been adamant about not being subject to the franchise tag. However, due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Collins doesn’t really have a choice.

If the Giants do end up playing tag with Collins, the non-exclusive franchise tag tender is a little less than $11.3 million for the safety position. The Giants currently have about $28.2 million in cap space so tagged Collins would be quite a hit for a team with several holes to fill. However, if the Giants decided to let Collins walk, should the Colts be interested?

Umm... HECK YES!

There are always a couple of questions Chris Ballard asks when signing a free agent. Does Ballard believe they are an ascending talent and most importantly, how do they fit with the team both on and off the field?

In terms of talent, Landon Collins is one of the best strong safeties in the NFL. The safety position in the Matt Eberflus’ defense is particularly important. Collins is a perfect fit for the Colts Cover-2 scheme to pair with Malik Hooker. He’s been selected to three straight Pro Bowls, despite missing the remaining 4 games of the past season with a shoulder injury that required surgery in early December.

Prior to suffering his shoulder injury, Collins started in 59 of 60 games since entering the league after the ill-fated 2015 draft. (#ThanksGrigson #TrueBlueSpeed). Over his career, Collins has 8 career interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and averages 107 tackles per year, which includes his injury shortened 2018 campaign where he had 98 tackles in 12 games.

Collins is also only 25 years old. This comports with Ballard’s goal of signing younger players with an opportunity to grow with franchise rather than overpay for a one or two year veteran stop gap. Collins best years should be ahead of him.

The big question on free agents Chris Ballard asks though is will they fit into the locker room? Out of all the potential big name free agents the Colts are linked to, Collins may be the most resounding yes of the group.

Collins was named a defensive captain by the Giants last season, a title he aspired to achieve, which shows he wanted to be a leader both on and off the field. He allows his play on the field to speak for him. He is well-respected both inside and outside the Giants organization.

If ever there were a perfect fit for the type of free agent Chris Ballard targets, it’s Landon Collins.

The reality of the situation though is Collins is likely to be franchised. Giants GM Dave Gettleman is a relatively frequent user of the franchise tag, using it three out of five years in Carolina. No team used it more and only the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins used it as many times during the same stretch. Gettleman did curiously rescind the franchise tag on CB Josh Norman. This makes one wonder if he’d want another player potentially sitting out or if he’d be less likely to tag Collins as Collins has threatened to sit out off-season activities before signing the franchise tender.

If for some reason Collins is not tagged, he would likely command a high salary on the open market with many suitors. The current top paid safety is Eric Berry of the Chiefs who signed a six year, $78 million contract with almost $30 million guaranteed for an average of $13 million per season. One would expect the average salary for Collins to exceed that but not likely by much.

In terms of contract duration, Collins will likely be looking to sign a 3-4 year contract, similar to what the Seattle Seahawks’s Kam Chancellor or Miami Dolphins’s Reshad Jones signed, in order to reach the market again before he hits 30.

If Collins were to sign a long term deal anywhere, it would likely be for four years at around $54 million, at $13.5 million per year, with about $25 million guaranteed. If he signs with the Colts, the deal would likely be front loaded as well with a higher first year salary and low signing bonus to mitigate any long term cap issues.

Even if Collins is tagged, the Colts may still have an opportunity to acquire him via trade. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Gettleman tag Collins and try to gain more than the late 2020 third round pick he would receive as a compensatory pick. If that’s the case, Ballard will likely be tempted to grab Collins. It will all depend on if Ballard values the late second round or third round pick more than Collins. The third round pick is undoubtedly the pick Ballard would feel comfortable moving.

Regardless, there are few players that “check all the boxes” Ballard is looking for in terms of paying an outside free agent big money. Landon Collins does just that.

If the Colts get an opportunity to acquire Collins either in free agency or for a reasonable trade, they should. It would right the wrongs of regimes past and finally put Collins with the Colts, just like he should have been all along.