It is widely assumed the team will use their franchise tag on Collins. General manager Dave Gettleman wouldn’t commit to having Collins on the team in the long-term.
“We’re still evaluating,” Gettleman said Wednesday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Earlier in the day, head coach Pat Shurmur said the Giants were having talks with Collins. He also said the reports last week that Collins cleaned out his locker were way overblown. ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported Collins said goodbye to teammates and coaches. Collins also refuted Anderson’s report.
Collins, the 33rd overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Alabama, is considered one of the NFL’s best safeties. He has led the Giants in tackles in each of his four professional seasons and was named to the last three Pro Bowls.
The Giants have until 4:00 PM EST Tuesday to use their franchise tag on him. Otherwise, he becomes an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on Mar. 13.
Collins is currently rehabbing from surgery on a torn labrum that cost him the final four games of the regular season. His rehab will also cause him to miss the team’s offseason program. The Giants are reportedly wary of signing him to a long-term extension because they don’t know how healthy he will be in 2019.
The team is also reportedly reluctant to use the franchise tag on him. If Collins is tagged, he will make approximately $13 million in 2019.
“It’s how the money lays out,” Gettleman said. “For example, right now the number being floated around is we have around $25-27 million in cap space. Here’s what you guys need to understand. We don’t have $27 million in cap space. Because you got to go into the season with $8-10 million in space. Because, if you don’t go into the season with $8-10 milli in space, if someone gets hurt, you’re playing a rookie.
“You can’t go out and get a veteran. You can’t go into your pro [scouting] guy and say ‘we need someone because so and so got hurt, because you don’t have any money. It would have to be a practice squad guy, or a young guy. That’s what it’s got to be. You can assume the numbers that are out there are close, but you’ve got to save yourself $10 million for the start of the year. Now, that conversation is different. Now you only have $17 million. Nothing can be done in a vacuum.”
Time is running out for the Giants. If Collins becomes an unrestricted free agent, there is a very good chance he leaves. He will generate much interest (and money for himself) on the open market.
Collins doesn’t want to play next season under the franchise tag, but also said he wouldn’t create a distraction by holding out.
“Would I play on it? I have no choice,” Collins said after the regular season ended. “But it’s not a concern of mine. I know what I’m capable of. Hopefully we work something out before that. If not, franchise it is. I’ve just got to continue proving myself.”
Once a team uses their franchise tag, the money is allocated to that player whether he reports to training camp or not. This doesn’t apply if the team and player agree to a long-term deal or the team pulls the tag. Gettleman has experience pulling a franchise tag. He tagged cornerback Josh Norman as general manager of the Carolina Panthers only to rescind it a month later.
Gettleman did acknowledge using the franchise tag could create some tension between Collins and the front office…though he doesn’t understand why.
“I don’t understand when the tag became such a bad thing for players, but that’s me,” Gettleman said. “Let’s go to the conversation of eliminating distractions. You tag a guy, and he’s mad, and that’s all you guys are going to write about. For six months. That’s what’s going to be in [all the papers], on nj.com, that’s what it’s going to be. I have to say to myself, is it worth it?”