EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Landon Collins has two Pro Bowls and an All-Pro selection on his résumé. He also likely has a lengthy recovery and uncertainty in his future after tearing his labrum in Sunday’s overtime win over the Chicago Bears.
Collins completed the game in pain. That is the kind of player and man he is. It’s why he is universally respected in the New York Giants locker room and was named a first-time captain this year at age 24.
There are still no guarantees that Collins will be back next season. He is a free agent after this season who now likely faces a four- to six-month recovery from left shoulder surgery. It only adds to his uncertainty.
The unpredictability of the safety market already had muddled Collins’ future. Now this. The Giants can allow him to walk, use the franchise tag or try to sign him to a long-term deal.
The franchise tag seems the most likely option at this point. It was in the $11 million range last year, and the Giants are expected to have plenty of salary-cap space after unloading pieces at the trade deadline in preparation for the future. The tag also would allow them the opportunity to see if Collins makes a full recovery and bounces back from what (for him) seemed to be a pedestrian season.
On one end, Collins is a difference-making playmaker near the line of scrimmage, a natural strong safety. That is what he is in this league. He led the Giants with 96 tackles, which included five for a loss, through 13 weeks. He wreaks constant havoc near the line of scrimmage.
“I think Landon displayed what he is [this season],” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s a very tough guy, very good tackler. I mean, he’s made a lot of plays for us, especially close to the line of scrimmage. I’ve said it numerous times in a sport where toughness is required, he has a lot of it. That’s what I appreciate about him.”
On the flip side, Collins can be exploited by good tight ends or running backs in coverage. Chicago’s Tarik Cohen caught three passes for 83 yards in the second half alone against Collins on Sunday.
Collins likely was asked to cover more than the Giants would’ve liked. Maybe it would have been a different story if they didn’t have such a void at the free safety position. Maybe then it would have allowed Collins to be a better fit in new coordinator James Bettcher’s defense.
“I think all safeties have to cover,” Shurmur said. “If you play any form of man, then the safeties have to cover, in most cases, either the tight end or a back. There aren’t many choices beyond that. We asked him to do that. We play man like every other team. He’s required to do that.”
Probably more than anybody would’ve liked. But it didn’t stop Collins from being able to make plays near the line of scrimmage. That is his primary skill.
“He’s a good player,” a pro personnel scout told ESPN.
Good, not great or elite.
“Elite? No, solid starter that can make some impact plays,” the scout added.
What is that worth these days in a depressed safety market that seems to only want to pay natural free safeties? That is what the Giants will have to decide.
At one point, Collins was hoping to get paid in the Eric Berry range. The Kansas City Chiefs free safety is the NFL’s highest-paid player at that position at $13 million per year. That deal was signed almost two years ago before the salary cap continued to rise. The same deal today would likely be in the range of $15 million per year.
Collins isn’t getting anywhere near that. But there is little doubt the Giants would welcome him back, at the right price. They received offers for him at the trade deadline -- including from the Chiefs -- but didn’t seem all that interested in making a move unless the return was significant.
If Collins walks this offseason (and someone will pay up if the Giants allow him on the open market), New York will at least get a decent compensatory pick in return for 2020. But it’s still more likely that Collins returns, if everything goes as planned medically.
The Giants aren’t in much of a position to allow 24-year-old defensive playmakers to walk. They can’t afford to let any defensive playmaker walk. And it’s not as if the locker room wouldn’t welcome his return.
“Who wouldn’t [want him back]?” Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins said.
A source familiar with the Giants' thinking told ESPN's Adam Schefter last month that they were expected to place their franchise tag on Collins if they couldn’t sign him to a long-term extension first. The long-term extension option became more complicated with this week’s injury news. The franchise tag probably became even more likely.