Right now, it looks like the New York Giants are still stuck with the same issues they’ve been dealing with for the past six seasons without any sign of improvements or assurances that management has any idea how to fix them. It also appears that within the next few weeks, DE Olivier Vernon could be traded, and former safety Landon Collins could be signed by another team willing to meet his price.
This past Tuesday it was announced that the Giants declined to place the franchise tag on their three-time Pro-Bowler, Collins, which will make him an unrestricted free agent as of March 13th unless he signs a contract extension with the team before then, which is very unlikely at this point. In the likely event that another team signs him, the Giants secondary will suffer a tremendous blow, which makes their decision to let him walk quite the head-scratcher, as this team is sorely lacking impact players on the defensive side of the football.
From the Giants perspective, I believe this was more of a cap issue, rather than a personnel issue. However, as free agency enters full swing, we must question whether the Giants decision to let Collins walk is good for the long-term benefit of the organization. While their ultimate decision not to place the tag on Collins or extend his contract must have been known by management before the trade deadline, I find myself asking what was the reason they chose to keep him until the end of the season (and gain nothing by letting him walk), instead of trading him for the first round draft pick an unnamed team reportedly offered for him?
Unfortunately for fans, their reasoning is only speculation unless management decides to disclose it during future press conferences. I also see this move as a possible foreshadowing of their intention to trade Olivier Vernon if the approximately $30 million in cap space they would use up this offseason does pose limitations on their ability to sign future talent. If this was the reason why they let Collins walk, then it is possible that Vernon will be gone in the coming weeks, since the Giants are already shopping him around to free up approximately $10 million in additional cap space.
However, with Collins gone there is no reasonable argument to also trade Vernon. I could see releasing Vernon and using his money to pay Collins, but since that is no longer a possibility, it would be a huge mistake for the Giants to move him off the roster as well. He’s been an integral piece of the defense, and to trade him to free up cap space would only add to their list of needs this offseason, which they currently have enough to deal with without adding to it. Additionally, unless GM Dave Gettleman plans to spend those hypothetical freed-up funds on impact free agents, I can’t see how this strategy is smart.
Possible players I think they should target after parting ways with Collins (and if they also end up getting rid of Vernon), are 26-year old, S Tyrann Mathieu (who played his first five NFL seasons in Arizona under newly appointed Giants defensive coordinator, James Better), 26-year old, S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (who is coming off an average year after being traded from the Green Bay Packers to the Washington Redskins during the season), 26-year old, S Tre Boston, (who was originally drafted by Gettleman in 2014 during his time as the Carolina Panthers GM), and DE Trey Flowers (who would provide a desperately needed impact player for the Giants defense).
Out of these players, I think the Giants should focus on Flowers as a much-needed edge-rusher on their defensive line. The 26-year-old is coming off a career-high 7.5 sacks this past season in New England, in addition to accumulating at least 6.5 sacks during each of his last three seasons. The addition of Flowers would make a huge impact and help bolster their squad.
While it currently looks as though the Giants’ top two defensive playmakers won’t be part of their defense next season, shopping for their free agent replacements could help the G-Men and their new defensive coordinator build a respectable crew in 2019. So, if I could give any advice to management, it would simply be to retain as many of their current playmakers as they can and, “Don’t outsmart yourselves in your haste to contend.”