When the Washington Football Team signed Landon Collins to a six-year, $84 million deal in March of 2019, the franchise thought it had its safety of the present and the future.
Two years later, Collins could be a 'surprise cut' this offseason, at least according to NFL.com writer Gregg Rosenthal.
Looking deeper into the situation, there's a solid chance Rosenthal ends up being right.
On the field, Collins has simply not lived up to his contract. In 2019, Collins struggled significantly in coverage, although the safety did lead Washington in tackles. This past season, under new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, Collins was on his way to turning in a better year than the campaign before rupturing his Achilles in Week 7 against Dallas.
In 23 games since arriving in Washington, Collins has 158 tackles, three sacks and just one interception. According to Pro Football Focus, Collins has graded out as a below-average starter in the NFL and one of the worst safeties in coverage across the league.
When Collins ruptured his Achilles, seventh-round rookie Kamren Curl took over as Washington's strong safety and immediately made an impact. Curl played alongside both Deshazor Everett and Jeremy Reaves once Collins went down, and although there were some inconsistencies from both those players, Washington really didn't lose much, if anything, production-wise.
If Collins were to return in 2021, he'd likely play closer to the line of scrimmage as more of a box safety, as Curl proved he's much better suited for the strong safety role. That's not why Washington signed him to a lucrative deal.
"We're hitting a lot of boxes on the surprise-cut bingo board," Rosenthal wrote, which just about sums it up perfectly.
Releasing Collins is not that easy of a decision, though.
The safety's current deal makes it hard to believe Washington will release Collins, at least before June 1. If Collins is cut before that date, he'll carry $18.8 million in dead cap, meaning Washington will actually lose nearly $1.9 million in cap space.
After June 1, things change dramatically. If the Burgundy and Gold were to release Collins once June 1st hit, they'd save $7.7 million in cap space. That's a decent amount of money to free up, especially with the league's salary capping dipping around 10% from 2020 due to the pandemic.
The issue with waiting until after June 1 to cut Collins is that most free agents will be signed by then, considering players will have had nearly two-and-a-half months to negotiate with teams. Sure, Washington can still release Collins then and collect that extra $7.7 million, but there likely won't be many impact players in free agency still available to spend it on.
Washington could also release Collins with a post-June 1st designation, meaning they can cut ties with him prior to the date without taking the pre-June 1st salary cap hit. Each team can do this for a maximum of two players.
Considering all these factors, it makes more sense for Washington to stick with Collins for now. Yet, the safety -- who's coming off one of the worst injuries in sports -- will have to prove himself in 2021 if he hopes to play out the remainder of his contract with Washington. The franchise can move on from him much more easily next offseason.