The Indianapolis Colts lost starting safety Khari Willis to retirement a week after the conclusion of the team’s minicamp. But while he leaves a sizable hole in the team’s defense, there are quality safeties left on the free agent market.
Colts editor Kevin Hickey of USA Today named four safeties Indianapolis should consider pursuing in free agency. Hickey called former All-Pro safety Landon Collins “the biggest name on the market at the position.”
Hickey did make it clear that Collins signing with the Colts was not very probable. But he still rated Collins the top choice at safety in free agency.
“Let’s get this out of the way. This is unlikely to happen,” Hickey wrote. “Collins is probably too expensive for a rotational role, and his skill set probably isn’t worth the money he’s seeking.
“However, he’s the biggest name on the market at the position. The former New York Giant and Washington Commander is still a fine enforcer near the line of scrimmage.”
The other three safeties Hickey mentioned as possible considerations for the Colts were Tashaun Gipson, Jaquiski Tartt and Tavon Wilson.
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Collins Is a 3-Time Pro Bowler
But in his prime, Collins was a special player.
Collins made first-team All Pro in 2016 with 125 combined tackles, including 9 tackles for loss, 5 quarterback hits and 4.0 sacks. He also posted career-highs with 5 interceptions and 13 pass defenses that season. Collins made the Pro Bowl in 2016 too.
He made the Pro Bowl again in 2017 and 2018. But he ended the 2018 season on injured reserve and then the New York Giants, who drafted him 33rd overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, did not extend him a second contract. Collins signed with Washington in free agency.
Collins racked up 117 combined tackles in 15 games with Washington during 2019. But injuries limited his stat production in 2020 and 2021.
Although it’s very unlikely he will return to his calibre of play from 2016-18, if healthy, Collins could provide a strong veteran presence to the backend of any defense.
How Collins Would Fit With the Colts
As Hickey wrote, Collins is not a perfect fit for Indianapolis. As a former All-Pro player, he is probably looking for an expensive contract, and that’s not likely to come from the Colts.
Furthermore, Indianapolis may not plan to replace Willis with just one player. The Colts signed safeties Rodney McLeod and Armani Watts in free agency and drafted safety Nick Cross in the third round.
Watts will likely play mostly on special teams, but any new safety the Colts add to the roster before training camp will likely split snaps with McLeod and Cross. Collins is probably better suited for a role where he plays a majority of the time.
Hickey also noted that Collins “is a risk” in coverage. The Colts were second-to-last in passing touchdowns allowed and placed in the bottom half of the league in passing yards yielded and net passing yards allowed per attempt last year.
Indianapolis has been looking for ways to improve its pass defense. Adding Collins would not help in that area.
But if paired with McLeod and Cross, Collins could be an asset against the run. The Pro Football Focus player grades rated Collins as one of the top 10 run defenders at safety last year.
It’s a long shot to work, but Colts general manager Chris Ballard wouldn’t be doing his due diligence if he didn’t look into signing the 2016 All-Pro safety.