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Giants don't use franchise tag on Landon Collins

Giants safety Landon Collins walks off the field

Giants safety Landon Collins walks off the field at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Aug. 21, 2018. Credit: Brad Penner

Landon Collins’ time with the Giants appears to have come to an end.

The team did not use the franchise tag on the three-time Pro Bowl safety by the 4 p.m. Tuesday deadline, allowing him to hit free agency when the league year begins next week. According to sources, the Giants conveyed that decision to Collins earlier in the afternoon on Tuesday. NFL Network was first to report that communication.

“I want to thank the Giants organization for believing in me and allowing me to have 4 great years in NY,” Collins wrote on Twitter. “I can’t express how great it was to play with my teammates and in one of the greatest cities in the world. I will forever cherish my time in the blue and white and the relationships I have built in the building and in my community. Now on to the next chapter … ”

While they still have until Wednesday to come to terms on a long-term contract with Collins, the more likely scenario is that the 25-year-old will sign a lucrative deal elsewhere.

For general manager Dave Gettleman, this will be the most unpopular decision of his 15-month tenure with the Giants so far. He’s parted ways with former draft picks and brought in questionable additions at high prices, but letting Collins, a productive player and team leader, walk away into free agency without getting anything in return will undoubtedly rile the fan base … and perhaps even the locker room. Collins has led the team in tackles each of the past three years and was named a defensive captain in 2018.

Using the franchise tag to keep Collins, 25, would have cost the Giants $11.15 million for 2019.

The Giants did have an opportunity to gain some assets in exchange for Collins at the 2018 trade deadline, but they decided to keep him on the team rather than ship him away for draft picks. Collins missed the final four games of the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

While the move is shocking, it does not seem to have been a surprise to Collins. Two weeks ago he reportedly removed his valuables from his locker at the Giants’ facility and said his goodbyes to some co-workers.

Gettleman made a pre-emptive defense of the decision to not use the franchise tag on Collins when he spoke with reporters at the Combine last week. The $11.15 million represented too much of the available salary cap, he said. He was worried, too, about Collins’ disappointment in being tagged becoming a distraction to the team. Unspoken concerns included the toll that Collins’ physical style of play will take on his body in the coming years (he ended each of the last two seasons on injured reserve) and his struggles in one-on-one coverage against tight ends and running backs. Collins never seemed to find his niche in the scheme of defensive coordinator James Bettcher in 2018, finishing without a sack or an interception for the first time in his career.

The Giants traded up to the first pick in the second round of the 2015 draft to select Collins out of Alabama. He will be the latest draft pick by the previous regime to part ways with the team under Gettleman’s watch. With Collins and long-snapper Zak DeOssie free agents as of March 13, the Giants will have just one player on their active roster that they drafted before 2016: Odell Beckham Jr. (The Giants traded for Eli Manning in 2004 after he was the first overall pick in the draft by the Chargers.)

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