The England Patriots have traded linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns. ESPN, through reporter Adam Schefter, was among the first to report the trade of Collins to the Browns early Monday afternoon. It is a rather shocking move by the Patriots, who have traded away one of their most impactful defensive players in the middle of the season.
The Browns will reportedly give the Patriots a compensatory third-round pick in exchange for Collins, who goes from a team that has to be considered one of the top favorites to win the Super Bowl this season to a team many believe will go winless in 2016.
Collins is in his fourth NFL season after being drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. After a solid rookie season, Collins had a breakout season in 2014, his second year in the league. During the 2014 season, Collins accumulated 116 tackles and four sacks, cementing himself as one of the top performers on New England’s defense. That year, Collins also had an interception in the AFC Championship Game and posted eight tackles in New England’s Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks.
However, somewhere along the line, New England’s view of Collins and his future with the organization changed. SB Nation reminds us that Collins is set to become a free agent after the season, and it appeared increasingly unlikely that the Patriots would re-sign him. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower and cornerback Malcolm Butler are also free agents and may be viewed as bigger priorities for the Patriots to retain, especially with Collins said to be asking for money in free agency comparable to what Von Miller of the Denver Broncos received last offseason. Miller’s contract is for six years and $114.5 million, with $70 million guaranteed.
Nevertheless, the Patriots trading Collins, a player who could still help them win a Super Bowl this season, is quite shocking. The Patriots are 7-1 and once again one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Surely, they could have retained Collins for the remainder of the season before letting him walk in free agency, as Collins would undoubtedly be instrumental in helping the Patriots win another championship.
On the other hand, Schefter suggests that Collins’ role with the Patriots was already starting to diminish. Schefter notes that Collins played just 48 of 70 defensive snaps during New England’s win Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. Collins was not on the field when the Bills used a full back or were in obvious running situations, indicating the Patriots no longer view him as an every-down linebacker and, therefore, not worth the money he’ll command on the free agent market. Thus, Collins became expendable, even for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Of course, the Patriots trading Collins is not the first time New England has parted ways with one of their best defensive players. Star defensive end Chandler Jones, who, like Collins, will hit the free agent market after the 2016 season, was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in March.
The Patriots have never been shy about putting their system and culture ahead of individual players, but parting ways with both Collins and Jones before their contracts expire is quite shocking and may put their Super Bowl hopes at risk. Even if Collins is no longer an every-down player, he’s still one of the most impactful players on New England’s defense.
From Cleveland’s perspective, trading for Collins is also a bit puzzling. The Browns are 0-8 and obviously not going anywhere this season. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense to trade for a player like Collins, who’s about to enter free agency, no matter how good he is. The Browns will obviously attempt to sign Collins to an extension before he gets to free agency, but as previously mentioned, Collins is seeking a lot of money, and there’s no guarantee he’ll want to stay in Cleveland long-term, especially considering the organization’s profound lack of winning in recent years.
If nothing else, the Browns can place the franchise tag on Collins and keep him in Cleveland in 2017. But Collins alone isn’t going to turn the Browns around unless they can convince him to sign an extension and make him a focal point of their re-building project.
The Patriots trade of Jamie Collins to the Browns makes little sense for both teams on the surface. From New England’s perspective, we’ll know by season’s end if trading Collins is something the team is able to withstand, as it could potentially interfere with their Super Bowl hopes. From Cleveland’s perspective, the trade for Collins is also risky, and only if the Browns can sign Collins to an extension will the move pay off for Cleveland in the long run.
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