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Explaining the method behind why the Patriots would trade LB Jamie Collins

Bill Belichick is at it again. Everyone grab your torches and pitchforks and storm Gillette Stadium in an angry protest and demand for Bill Belichick’s head. No, just kidding.

The Patriots shocked the entire football world by trading away LB Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns for a 3rd round draft pick. The conventional thinking is why the Patriots would deal a Pro Bowler for simply a 3rd round pick. To me, it seems like this is the case of the Patriots realizing that retaining Collins was simply not a possibility and electing to let a player go sooner rather than later.

One of the factors behind the trade is the emergence of 6th round rookie LB Elandon Roberts. Roberts stepped up when Collins missed the Browns and Bengals games. Roberts turned heads against the Browns and was a big factor in shutting down their running game, including this superhuman play to stun a future Hall of Famer on a run blitz. Roberts is in line to take over at the 2nd linebacker spot, which is impressive considering two years ago nobody knew what type of player he would be. The Patriots are banking on more week to week consistency from Roberts than Collins despite the fact Collins is more athletically gifted and can do more on the football field when both are at the top of their game.

Another factor was Collins’ poor performance against the Bills yesterday, which included giving up the rushing lane that allowed Tyrod Taylor to convert a 4th and 3 into a touchdown. Even though he was being face masked on the play, that’s not a mistake that Belichick easily forgives, especially because the secondary did its job. Collins has been somewhat inconsistent, although when he’s been at the top of his game he can nearly single-handedly ruin an entire offense for 60 minutes. However, like the case of Chandler Jones, he tends to disappear too often when it matters most. In the free agent market, Collins will get a ton of money from some team because of what he has done and what he can do.

The Patriots have a lot of big free agents to re-sign, including fellow LB Dont’a Hightower, ED Jabaal Sheard, CB Malcolm Butler (RFA), OT Marcus Cannon, ST Brandon Bolden, and RB LeGarrette Blount. At the end of the day, the Patriots have a scarce amount of resources and the curse of being a perennial contender is you lose quality players every year. The Patriots typically do a good job of replenishing the talent base with strong drafting and targeting the 2nd wave of free agents. Perhaps the biggest domino effect is Dont’a Hightower is almost a certain lock to return in 2017 in some way, shape, or form.

The Patriots will be getting a 2017 compensatory 3rd round pick in the return, which is more valuable than a 2018 compensatory 3rd round pick even though you lose the player in a Super Bowl run. Reportedly, he was asking for Von Miller type money. No team in the league is going to give a top-end linebacker that type of money. A compensatory 3rd rounder for half a season of Jamie Collins is a decent return in the trade market since that player has a decent chance of being something in Foxboro the next 4 years.