And … boom!
The one-two punch has been delivered, and the figurative jaw of Giants’ fans has been badly bruised – first by the team’s decision not to try and keep former All-Pro safety Landon Collins and then Monday’s news that the 25-year-old, onetime heartbeat of Big Blue’s defense will now wear burgundy and gold and line up against the Giants twice a year.
Where Giants general manager Dave Gettleman saw little value in paying big for Collins, the Redskins wasted no time in making spending lavishly on him and making Collins a centerpiece for the Giants’ NFC East rivals. It will be a six-year, $84 million deal, which includes a reported $45 million in guarantees, that Collins will sign Wednesday just after 4 p.m. It will be a Happy NFL New League Year for the Redskins, and a solemn one for the Giants, who not only lose out on one of their few reliable defensive players but lose him to one of their most hated adversaries.
There is no question the Giants are losing a ton in Collins, whose sure tackling and can-do attitude endeared him to fans who had come to appreciate his game. Collins is a coach’s dream, a player who will do whatever it takes to win, playing in pain and only leaving the field when it was medically impossible for him to continue. That was the case last year, when Collins was felled by a torn labrum in December and couldn’t continue.
But now this heart-and-soul player goes to the Redskins, where he will bring his unique brand of enthusiasm to a team badly in need of everything Collins offers. Washington is still a work in progress at quarterback, where Alex Smith is recovering from suffering a gruesome leg injury and will – at least for now – be replaced by journeyman Case Keenum. The Redskins may not be done at quarterback, though. The whispers grow louder that they will make a play for the Cardinals' Josh Rosen, a first-round pick in 2018 whose time in Arizona may be near an end if you believe the continued speculation that first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury prefers Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, whom Kingsbury recruited to Texas Tech.
It’s a bitter pill for Giants’ fans, to be sure. But considering all the team’s needs at several positions, most notably in the secondary that Collins has now vacated, investing that kind of money would have stretched their resources even thinner than they are now. It was therefore a sensible economic decision not to spend that kind of money on a player the team considered vulnerable in pass coverage, even if he has been an absolute stud near the line of scrimmage. The Giants could have controlled Collins’ rights for at least the 2019 season with an $11 million investment in the franchise tag. But Gettleman felt even that was too high a price; besides, the Giants will likely get a compensatory draft pick in 2020 because of Collins’ departure, which takes some of the sting away from a potential trade they might have been able to swing.
Collins is yet another of former GM Jerry Reese’s picks no longer with the team, as Gettleman has essentially dismantled the roster Reese left behind after his ouster near the end of the 2017 season. It’s perfectly reasonable that a new GM wants to bring in new players – happens all the time in this league, and the Giants are no exception. But it’s how Gettleman reassembles the pieces that will ultimately become his legacy.
It is a very incomplete picture right now, and Gettleman could very well sign a free agent safety who fits better in defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s system than Collins.
Gettleman pulled off a smart trade of disinterested defensive end/linebacker Olivier Vernon for Browns guard Kevin Zeitler, as the GM gets one of his coveted “hog mollies” to put up front on the offensive line. And there are many more moves to come, both in free agency, via trade and through the draft. Once the 2019 puzzle is pieced together, Gettleman can take stock of his roster and a more complete picture can be formed.
For now, the hurt is raw, and it is real. There is no question Collins will be missed.
The key now is finding a suitable replacement.