The New York Giants had the option to give Landon Collins the franchise or transition tag and make sure he was on the roster for another year. They opted against it, and cleared the path for the three-time Pro Bowl safety to join their NFC East rival in Washington.
When Collins left, it made wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. the only player drafted by the Giants between 2008 and 2015 still on the team’s roster.
Then the Giants went ahead and traded Beckham to the Cleveland Browns for reasons that are hard to explain.
In December 2017, the Giants hired Dave Gettleman as general manager to get the franchise back on track. But a little over a year into his rebuild, it’s hard to see what exactly his plan is for the team.
The Giants should’ve invested in their young talent
Collins went to his third consecutive Pro Bowl in January. Beckham was the only other player on the Giants who could boast that accomplishment after making it to the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons.
The last Giants players before those two with three straight Pro Bowls were offensive linemen Chris Snee and Shaun O’Hara — each made it in 2008, 2009, 2010, and each are now long retired.
Logically, the Giants would’ve wanted to keep their two young stars. Collins and Beckham probably have more Pro Bowls in their future, and the Giants should’ve try to be the team that benefits from their play.
Signing Beckham to a five-year, $95 million contract extension seemingly locked down one of those players. But now — less than a year after his extension — he’s a member of the Browns.
The other player, Collins, is set to join Washington on a six-year deal that averaged $14 million per year. It would’ve cost the Giants $11.15 million to apply the franchise tag to the safety — a number they thought was too high for a player they reportedly don’t believe can cover the pass well.
Just spoke to a high level Giants source on decision. He also mentioned their concern with Collins pass defense. This seemed to be their biggest issue and reason. https://t.co/k0pnzKaFTk— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 5, 2019
That’s not the most unfair criticism of Collins after he struggled in coverage in 2018. During his breakout 2016 season — when he finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting — Collins had five interceptions and held passers to a 68.0 passer rating when they threw his direction. He had zero interceptions in 2018 and allowed a 127.8 rating in 2018.
That’s not good, but:
- It’s also reflection of bad luck, with fewer interceptions falling into Collins’ lap.
- The Giants had fewer leads and, thus, forced fewer passes and opportunities for interceptions.
- Collins is a strong safety who’s a force in run support and can rush the passer.
“This is a hard move to understand, if indeed it is what happens,” wrote Ed Valentine of SB Nation’s Giants blog, Big Blue View. “It doesn’t seem like good on-field business for the Giants, a team that needs help on all levels of what was a leaky defense in 2018, to risk losing a 25-year-old who might be their best defensive player.”
Now, the Giants have to try to replace Collins and simply won’t be able to replace Beckham.
It’s time to get with the times, Giants
Saquon Barkley was everything the Giants could’ve dreamed he’d be when they picked him No. 2 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. He had 15 touchdowns and led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage.
The Giants were still awful.
Even with Barkley putting together an incredible rookie campaign, New York finished with an average offense and a 5-11 record.
There are many reasons why the Giants’ offense struggled — including subpar pass protection and some inefficient running by Barkley. New York added some help by trading for guard Kevin Zeitler, although that cost the Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon — setting back a defense that was already below average.
Either way, it’s clear that 38-year-old quarterback Eli Manning is much more of a drawback than an asset at this point in his career.
Clear to everyone except the Giants’ brass, that is.
“I think Eli can help us win games,” Giants’ head coach Pat Shurmur said at the NFL Combine last week. “I want Eli back. He’s back.”
Gettleman took it a step further and said anyone who believes Manning is the problem is caught up in a false narrative.
#Giants GM Dave Gettleman defending Eli Manning: “If you tell a lie long enough, you believe it. The narrative has been so negative, when you take that position, you have trouble getting off that spot. The narrative has been negative and I don’t think it’s fair.”— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 27, 2019
So Manning will be back in 2019 as a starter, and he’ll carry a $23.3 million salary cap hit. He won’t have Beckham to throw to either. Had the Giants decided to move on from their longtime starter, the team could’ve recouped $17 million — more than enough to keep Collins.
Evidently the Giants see more value in retaining a 38-year-old quarterback who hasn’t finished top 20 in passer rating in the last three seasons over a 25-year-old safety with three consecutive Pro Bowls.
It made sense that the spring ended with the Giants drafting a quarterback with their top 10 pick. But instead of taking Dwayne Haskins or Drew Lock, the team took an inefficient quarterback instead with Daniel Jones. And even if the pick works out, it’s hard to see how the roster gets better by subtracting Collins.
Gettleman got fired by the Panthers for similar issues
It was surprising when the Panthers abruptly fired Gettleman in summer 2017. Carolina went to the Super Bowl less than 18 months prior to his termination, and went to the postseason in the season immediately after his firing.
The problem appeared to be the way Gettleman handled the biggest stars on the roster.
“Gettleman has never been known for his bedside manner,” Geoff Schwartz wrote shortly after the firing. “He left Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams, and Josh Norman fuming with the way he handled their contract situations.”
Smith finished his career with the Ravens after 13 seasons with the Panthers. Williams played his final two years with the Steelers after nine seasons in Carolina. And Norman was hit with the franchise tag, then allowed to walk and join Washington after the tag was rescinded. He even offered to play on a cheaper one-year deal to stay with the Panthers.
Gettleman repeatedly shied away from locking up players long-term and was fired shortly after linebacker Thomas Davis and tight end Greg Olsen started angling for new deals.
It didn’t help either that Gettleman was handed a roster that already had Cam Newton, Ryan Kalil, Jonathan Stewart, and Luke Kuechly. He added Kawann Short, Christian McCaffrey, and Trai Turner to the roster, but over five drafts, he had more misses — Kelvin Benjamin, Vernon Butler, Kony Ealy, and Devin Funchess, to name a few — than hits.
Ultimately, Gettleman drove stakes between the franchise and talented players too often, and he didn’t draft well enough to restock the roster.
Gettleman says he wants to leave a legacy like his mentor Ernie Accorsi did by landing Manning in 2004. Hoping Jones will be that player is awfully optimistic.
The Giants letting Collins walk in free agency raised eyebrows. Trading Beckham should sound alarms that Gettleman’s repeating his Carolina history in New York.