Collins confirmed on Tuesday that he was not given the franchise tag ahead of Tuesday's deadline, making him an unrestricted free agent. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network first reported the decision.
LANDON COLLINS @TheHumble_21
I want to thank the Giants organization for believing in me and allowing me to have 4 great years in NY. 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
Collins, 25, is a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro. After making no more than $1.3 million his first four NFL seasons, Collins will likely command a salary averaging more than $10 million annually.
Collins would have made $11.2 million under the franchise tag in 2019. Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reported Collins would not have signed the franchise tag and would have sat out through the summer to negotiate a long-term contract.
The Giants apparently decided to avoid a potential Le'Veon Bell situation and allow arguably their best defensive player to walk. Tensions between the two sides was apparent during the regular season when the Giants considered trading Collins, and he voiced displeasure with the team trading Damon Harrison and Eli Apple.
"It surprised the hell out of me," Collins said in November of trade talks, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv. "It was a big eye-opener. If they're rebuilding, they can rebuild without me. And I'm so young still, but they could still try to find younger and put the money elsewhere, into whatever they need to put it into to rebuild their team."
Even if the Giants are in a rebuilding phase, it's a surprise to see Collins not being part of their retooling. He's still just 25 years old; any long-term contract he signs will likely only take him to the tail end of his prime. NFL teams don't rebuild for a half-decade, so Collins is the type of talent a team like the Giants should build around rather than let leave for free.
Collins has recorded at least 96 tackles in each of his four NFL seasons and gone over the 100-tackle mark three times. While he did not pick off a pass in 2018 and had a relatively down year, it was part of a disappointing season as a whole for the Giants.
It seemed like Collins would be part of the solution rather than viewed as part of the problem.