In an absolute stunner of a move, our own ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that linebacker Jamie Collins has been traded to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a third round draft pick. This move seems to have completely come out of nowhere, as there were neither rumors nor whispers of any sort of trade involving Collins going on prior to this deal. Arguably the team’s most athletic and perhaps important player on defense, Collins being moved ahead of tomorrow’s trade deadline is one that is not only shocking but head-scratching as well.
Collins has been a staple of this team’s defense since being drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Southern Mississippi. He has accumulated 291 total tackles, 10.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and five interceptions in his three plus seasons here in New England. He has played in 50 out of a possible 56 games up until this point and has been a leader of the defense along with Dont’a Hightower for a few seasons now. Profiling as one of the most athletic players in the NFL at his position, Collins is coming off of being named to the NFL’s second team All-Pro in 2015.
The Patriots had made a couple of moves throughout the off-season and in the regular season at the linebacker position, including signing Shea McClellin to a three year contract, trading for Barkevious Mingo, signing Jonathan Freeny to a contract extension and also recently trading for Kyle Van Noy. Collins, along with other defensive stars such as Hightower, Jabaal Sheard and Malcom Butler were all due to be free agents at the end of this season and there had been some concern as to whether the team could re-sign all of them. Perhaps this trade indicates that the team wasn’t confident in retaining him in free agency and wanted to get value for him before potentially losing him to another team in a bidding war.
The team has not been afraid to trade star players before, including Chandler Jones this past off-season to the Cardinals for Jonathan Cooper and a second round draft pick. They also traded away star defensive tackle Richard Seymour back in 2009 to the Raiders for a first round draft pick. The Patriots have also made multiple trades this season alone, including trading for Van Noy, Mingo and Eric Rowe along with trading away A.J. Derby recently as well. Nonetheless, this is a complete shocker of a trade that no-one saw coming.
The Patriots will move forward with Hightower, Van Noy, Mingo and Elandon Roberts as their primary linebackers for the time-being. The team typically runs a base 4-2-5 defensive scheme, only utilizing two linebackers, which will likely be Hightower and Roberts with Van Noy and Mingo playing on sub packages.
Boston Globe’s Ben Volin is also reporting that Collins had turned down a contract offer from the Patriots of around $11 million dollars per year, which could point to the two sides not being able to figure out a contract. If that is the case, the Patriots moved him with the intention of getting a draft pick this season rather than waiting for a compensatory pick in 2017. The franchise tag for a linebacker is projected to be around $15 million dollars, so the team was trying to sign him apparently to a long-term deal below the franchise tag amount.
The Browns are the only win-less team in the NFL at 0-8, so the team does not have playoff aspirations likely and probably traded for him with the intention of signing him to a long-term contract. If they lose him in free agency to another team, they would be subject to receiving a compensatory draft pick in 2018. But considering Collins’ contract is up after this season and the Patriots were able to get a third round draft pick for him, it seems the Browns’ strategy/hope is to sign Collins to a long-term contract before free agency were to hit.
Regardless, this trade came out of nowhere and no-one seemingly had this predicted nor had heard anything like this up until this point. The Patriots have shown that they have no problem trading franchise players if they don’t think they’ll be able to re-sign them, so this appears to be the Patriots doing the same exact thing this time as well. Expect more information in the coming days, but this will be a trade that’ll take some time to process and digest.