Philadelphia Eagles: Should the Birds go all in on Landon Collins?

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With Landon Collins officially a free agent, should the Philadelphia Eagles go all-in on the uber-talented ex-New York Giants safety to shore up their secondary once and for all?

The New York Giants are not a very talented team.

With five Pro Bowlers on their roster last season but not a single All-Pro, the Giants are not a team that can afford to let talent walk for nothing, especially if they want to return to contention sooner rather than later.

Fortunately for fans in the 215, it looks like that number has dropped down to two.

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That’s right, after cleaning out his locker earlier this year, the Giants have officially decided to move on from Landon Collins, 33rd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft who just so happens to be one of the top safeties in the entire league.

But could Collins remain in the NFL East and continue to ravish the likes of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and whoever is under center for Washington in 2019?

As you probably already know, the Philadelphia Eagles are in a pretty weird spot at the moment when it comes to the salary cap in that they don’t really have a lot of it available.

After extending Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, Rick Lovato, and Jake Elliot and allowing Timmy Jernigan to test the open market, the Eagles are currently $16 million under the cap, good for the 22nd overall mark in the league.

While they won’t be able to outbid teams like the Indianapolis Colts, or New York Jets for free agents, as they both have over $100 million to play with this summer, Howie Roseman should be able to procure at least a few choice pieces to upgrade his squad going into 2019 and make the team an impossible out at the Linc.

Collins should be at the top of his list.

Now on the surface, adding a safety isn’t a glaring need for the Eagles, as they have a pair of solid contributors in Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins but there has to be a big ole asterisk next to the position, as the former does not look long for the City of Brotherly Love.

Over the last two seasons, McLeod has only appeared in 20 or a possible 37 games due to a string of minor injuries in 2016, and a Week 3 torn ACL in 2017.

Typically, players like McLeod don’t lose their spots due to injury, but after missing the majority of his third season with the Eagles, Roseman wanted to ensure the team’s viability at the position moving forward, and restructured his deal to become a free agent one year sooner in 2020, effectively cutting his final season and making his cap hit a bit more manageable going into the 2019 season.

That’s not particularly high praise for a player of McLeod’s caliber.

When the regular season begins in September, McLeod will be 29, two years younger than Jenkins. While Jenkins looks like he could easily play into his mid-to-late 30s due to his versatility, veracity, and incredibly high football IQ, the Eagles need to one day prepare for life after their current tandem and find their next great safety of the future.

Collins fits that bill to a T.

At 6-foot, 218 pounds, Collins is the prototypical NFL safety. He’s fast ( 4.53 40 yard dash), strong (16 bench reps), and an absolute stat stuffer, logging 428 tackles, 32 passes defensed, eight interceptions, and three forced fumbled over 59 starts. Collins is also versatile, as he can play either safety position with ease, and even slot down into the dime and a subpackage linebacker if need be.

On paper, there isn’t a whole lot to not like about Collins as a player, and he will most certainly be in high demand once free agency opens up on March 13th.

Is it possible that Collins’ new deal could eclipse Eric Berry‘s current deal ($13 million a year) to become the highest paid safety in the league? It’s not only possible but likely, however, if he’s willing to take a little bit less, say $8-10 million a year to play for a certified Super Bowl contender, the Eagles should be bullish in their pursuit.

Sure, Jim Schwartz would have to get creative in deploying three starting caliber safeties for the majority of a game, effectively making the Big Nickel Philly’s base defensive package, but because of the three players versatility, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Last season the Eagles had three safeties on the field about a third of the time, sometimes out of necessity, but also to take advantage of mismatches. Since Jenkins likes to play close to the line of scrimmage, and could technically players more linebacker (42 percent) and slot corner (30 percent) than safety (24 percent) at this point, at least according to Pro Football Focus, inserting a true blue safety like Collins into the team’s starting lineup wouldn’t be all that difficult.

Because Jenkins can cover a tight end on one play, a running back the next, and a wide receiver on the play after that, the Eagles could effectively craft one of the more versatile schemes filled with playmakers across the board.

Granted, one could argue that the Eagles could find similar, if not better value by investing the lion share of their cap space on a more pressing need, like defensive tackle, a playmaking linebacker, or even Ronald Darby, but as things presently stand, safety is the most undervalued position in the NFL, and by securing a legitimately elite player like Collins for the price of a mid-level cornerback the Birds would be a much better team.

Next. Extending Isaac Seumalo is a worthy venture. dark

At 25-years-old, the same age as Isaac Seumalo, Landon Collins is just entering his prime and will be among the best players in the league at his position for at least the duration of his next contract. Though Howie Roseman can’t in good conscience make him the highest paid safety in the league, if the former New York Giants’ Pro Bowler wants to stick it to his former team and compete for Lombardi Trophies for the next half decade in the NFL East, he should seriously consider becoming a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, and become the team’s best safety to don the midnight green since Brian Dawkins.