New York Giants: Why Placing The Franchise Tag On Landon Collins Might Not Be A Bad Idea

Beginning on February 19, NFL teams will be allowed to place franchise tags on pending free agents. According to reports, the New York Giants will be one of the teams to use their franchise tag in this 2019 offseason.

Former all-pro safety Landon Collins is set to become a free agent in 2019. He will come with a high price tag if he hits the open market. However, reports seem to indicate that Landon will not be hitting the open market. The Giants will be placing the franchise tag on Landon Collins and letting him play out the 2019 season.

Some fans may be against this and would like to see Collins receive a long-term extension. While that makes plenty of sense, it makes sense for the Giants to franchise tag Collins, too. There are multiple reasons why the Giants might prefer to franchise tag Collins.

Landon’s Regression Since 2016

In 2016, Landon Collins was arguably the best safety in the NFL. He was a strong candidate for NFL AP Defensive Player of the Year. Collins posted a career high 5 interceptions and 13 passes defended that season while also being a force in run defense. He totaled an incredible 125 tackles with 9 tackles for loss. Landon even had 4 sacks in 2016. He was an unstoppable force on defense for the Giants in 2016.

Since then, things have been shaky for Landon. It could be argued that the reason for this is the Giants’ lack of talent at free safety. However, it cannot be denied that Landon has not been the same as his 2016-self in the past two seasons.

In 2017, the Giants were terrible. They went 3-13 and fired the entire coaching staff. Landon Collins was not awful that season, but he definitely took a step back from his dominance in 2016. Collins only had 2 interceptions in 2017. In addition, his tackle total dropped to 99 with only 3 tackles for loss. Collins did not record a sack in 2017, either.

However, Collins still flashed his raw talent in 2017. It is difficult to succeed at safety when Eli Apple is letting people run by him in coverage and you are not getting much help from a mediocre Darian Thompson. Collins was not as good in coverage, but he was still scary for runners to see in the open field.

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With the addition of new defensive coordinator James Bettcher in 2018, the Giants were hopeful Collins would return to his 2016 production. Unfortunately, what the Giants got was a bit closer to the 2017 version of Landon Collins. In 12 games in 2018, Landon did not have an interception. He did have 4 passes defended though, and was still great in run defense. He had 96 tackles and 5 tackles for loss.

Unfortunately, the most concerning aspect of his 2018 season was his second time being placed on injured reserve.

Landon’s Recent Injury History

One common theme for Collins in 2017 and 2018 is an unfortunate ending to his season. In both seasons, Landon suffered an injury toward the end of the year, ending his season with surgery. Week 16 of the 2017 season, Collins suffered a broken forearm. In 2018, it was a tear in his shoulder.

Injuries could be a cause for concern for Dave Gettleman and the Giants. The Giants will not want to invest a lot of money into a player if they do not think he will be able to stay on the field. When Landon was fully healthy in 2016, he was an all-pro.

The Giants will be looking to see if Landon Collins can remain healthy in 2019 under the franchise tag. If he can do that, and keep a high-level of play, he could earn himself an extension.

Seeing Collins Perform With Talent Around Him

Before committing to Landon Collins long-term, the Giants might want to see him play out one more season. Seeing him play with more talent around him might convince the Giants he is worthy of a new contract.

Collins has not really had a fair shot with safeties like Curtis Riley lining up opposite of him. The Giants could pair Landon with a competent free safety in the 2019 offseason. Doing this might elevate Landon’s play and possibly help him surpass his 2016 season.

Giants’ Darian Thompson Losing Free Safety Battle To Recent Addition

The New York Giants have a rather large void in the secondary, specifically at the free safety position. Third-year man Darian Thompson started in week one of the preseason, but since then he’s lost reps to new acquisition, Curtis Riley.

Riley is a transitioned cornerback, formerly of the Tennessee Titans. In his two-year career, he only amassed seven total tackles. For the Giants in 2018, he will be looking to make more of an impact, and his move to safety should give him that opportunity.

Now, Andrew Adams still has a chance at earning some serious playing time at the open position, but so far, Riley has proved to be the most reliable. Adams has been consistent throughout his career, but isn’t going to turn heads with ball-hawk tendencies like Thompson is capable of providing. He’s more of a sure tackler and average deep cover man.

Where is Darian Thompson in the battle? And why is Riley earning first team reps?

The Giants have increased Riley’s reps due to Thompson aggravating a hamstring injury suffered in the Giants’ preseason opener. This opens up the free safety job for the taking, and the former Titan is not going to let it slip from his grasp.

I just have to keep doing things consistently, doing everything that I’m doing right now,” he said stated in regard to the competition position battle.

“I have to make sure I’m making all the right calls, can’t go out there having any of these technical errors and stuff like that. Just have to be consistent, that’s the main thing.”

Thompson led the Giants with 13 missed tackles last year, proving to be a liability in coverage and a mistake waiting to happen. This issue cannot arise again in the months ahead, as the secondary is already thin and in dire need of consistent talent. So far, it seems Riley has the most optimism surrounding his play.

New York Giants’ Darian Thompson Fighting For Starting Job

The New York Giants are rather thin at the safety position entering training camp in a few days; Darian Thomspon and Andrew Adams will be facing off to earn the starting free safety job, but the former Boise State ball-hawk will have an up-hill battle in the coming weeks.

After having a porous 2017 campaign plagued with missed tackles and blown coverages, Thompson will be looking to carry over his experience and make a significant improvement in 2018. After playing in only two games in 2016, Thompson’s de-facto rookie season was last year – a year in which the defense ranked 28th in points allows (24.2) and 31st in passing yards allowed (252.4).

How bad was Thompson for the Giants last season?

The ball-hawk safety failed to show his true potential, recording 13 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. He had just one interception and six passes defended in 16 games started.

He will be in competition with Adams, Curtis Riley, and former Miami Dolphin, Michael Thomas. While they aren’t particularly top-notch safeties, they present enough of a battle for Thompson this offseason. We could see a mix of the four safeties come the regular season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see defensive coordinator James Bettcher, play the hot hand on any given day.

Thompson has the ability to locate the ball and make big plays, while Adams is more conservative in his play-style and can tackle more efficiently. Riley is a converted cornerback that could surprise us, and Thomas is a Pro Bowl level special teams player, something the Giants need and might not be willing to risk by starting Thomas regularly.

New York Giants Safeties: Andrew Adams Vs Darian Thompson

As we take a glance at the safety position for the New York Giants, we must take a step back and realize that this has been a position of weakness for quite some time. The competition between Andrew Adams and Darian Thompson should not provide means for optimism, but rather just average play that can make plays at the right time for the Giants.

Starting off with New York Giants’ safety Andrew Adams:

Adams was an undrafted free agent out of UConn. He has flashed potential in the NFL but was never able to hold onto the starting free safety job for long. Landon Collins has the strong safety spot locked up for the foreseeable future, so the free safety job is open for the taking.

The third-year safety started in just four games last season, which was far less than the 16 Thompson enjoyed. He finished the season with 28 tackles, two passes defended and one forced fumble. If you crunch the numbers, we can assume that if Adams started all 16 games, he would have finished the season with 112 total tackles, eight PD, and four FF. That’s a solid season for any safety. It begs the question: Why didn’t he play more?

Steve Spagnuolo tended to rely on Thompson more in coverage, as he considered him more of a ball-hawk. With the Giants blitzing with Collins and corners on occasion, Spags clearly favored Darian to drop back in coverage and contain the deep ball. To say the least, he struggled.

Thompson finished the season with 61 total tackles and six passes defended. He missed tackles and blew coverage regularly, which ultimately has him fighting for a reserve spot this offseason. Both Adams and Curtis Riley split reps with the first team during mini-camp.

Some quotes from Adams in regard to his competition with Thompson:

“Darian and I came into the league as rookies,” Adams said during an appearance on NJ Advance Media’s The Talk is Cheap Podcast. “We’re very close. I’m actually going to his wedding, on Friday. We help each other. We study together. We know that there’s competition, but we came in together, we’re close friends, so all it does is make us better.

 

“He raises his game, I raise my game, which, that ultimately helps the Giants’ organization. That’s the main goal. The goal is to get that fifth [Lombardi] Trophy in the case. That’s all we’re both looking to do. We’re both just looking to help the organization, any way that we can.”

While Thompson was known for his ball-hawk abilities at Boise state, his transition to the NFL has been bumpy. In his rookie season he was forced out in week two with an injured foot. He proceeded to spend the rest of the season rehabilitating his injury, never setting foot on the football field again. He made his return in 2017, which was practically his rookie year. It’s possible he could return with confidence with a year of experience under his belt, similar to Collins, but it’s not encouraging to see him playing with the second team.

I wouldn’t rule out Thompson stealing the starting job just yet, but this will be a battle to keep an eye on during training camp.