clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trying to wrap my head around the Patriots trading LB Jamie Collins to the Browns

I’m still not sure what just happened.

I am so confused about the Patriots trading LB Jamie Collins to the Browns, folks. I have very few answers, and a whole lot of questions about every party involved.

The Browns are trading a compensatory 3rd round pick to the Patriots for Collins. Cleveland expects to receive a 3rd round compensatory pick after OC Alex Mack signed a major contract with the Falcons this past offseason. If the Browns do not receive a compensatory 3rd round pick, then the Patriots will receive the Browns 4th round pick.

There is almost no difference in these picks. The Browns will get the first pick in the draft by virtue of being the worst team in the NFL. The hypothetical compensatory pick for Mack would be the last compensatory pick awarded, per OverTheCap’s projections. So the Patriots are either getting the last pick of the 3rd round or the first pick of the 4th round- literally nothing different in value, except teams might be more willing to trade up for the first pick of day three in the NFL draft.

Except DeflateGate throws a huge wrench into this strategy. The Patriots will be penalized their best pick in the 4th round, which means that the Patriots are making a major bet that the Browns will receive their compensatory pick. If the Browns get bumped to the 4th round, then the Patriots will get back their own 4th and the Seahawks 4th. That’s projected to be at the end of the 4th and a drop of roughly 25 picks- and that is big.

Like the trade with ED Chandler Jones, the Patriots needed to find a trade partner that could come to terms with a long term extension with Collins. If the Browns don’t extend Collins, they’ll likely receive a 3rd round compensatory pick in 2018. The Browns are betting a one year deferral on their 3rd round compensatory pick that they can come to terms with Collins. That’s not a bad strategy.

I also understand the price of a 3rd round pick, even though I’m not sure it’s worth it. Chandler Jones was worth a late 2nd round pick in order to get a full year with his new team. Collins is joining the Browns on the fly with just half of the season left; dropping from a 2nd to a 3rd makes some sense (and we can argue that Jones has been greatly outplaying his price tag with the Cardinals, but that’s another story).

I’m just curious that the Patriots weren’t able to find another team willing to take the same strategy as the Browns. How come a team like the Ravens wouldn’t be willing to give up their actual 3rd round pick for Collins? Or why wouldn’t a team in the NFC, if Bill Belichick wanted to send Collins to a team that wouldn’t hurt the Patriots?

As for the Patriots, I have no idea what the strategy is. Apparently the Patriots offered Collins enough money to be the second-highest paid stand-up linebacker behind Panthers LB Luke Kuechly, but Collins wanted to be paid like an elite pass rusher. That was never going to happen and it seems like the Patriots and Collins have been wanting to go in different directions.

I’ve always thought that LB Dont’a Hightower was the more important of the duo; LB Jerod Mayo stands by Hightower as the defensive cornerstone and Belichick made Hightower the defensive captain for a reason. I’m not going to argue with that.

But Collins was also 2nd team All Pro last year. He’s possibly the biggest athletic freak in the NFL and he’s still ascending as a player. He’s had hiccups over the years, as have every other player, but he seems like he’s on the cusp. No one can stop the run, rush the passer, and drop into coverage like Collins can. I’m sure Colts QB Andrew Luck checks under his bed for Jamie Collins every night.

At least with the trade for Jones, the Patriots were able to add a franchise left guard in Joe Thuney and a promising wide receiver in Malcolm Mitchell. The Patriots will not get anything for Collins for the remainder of this season.

Rookie LB Elandon Roberts has looked very good in limited time, but he’s still a rookie. LB Barkevious Mingo is likely to step in as the weakside linebacker and he’s proven nothing in a Patriots uniform. LB Shea McClellin has been underwhelming and LB Kyle Van Noy looks to be more of a strongside linebacker, although I wouldn’t count him out as a possible replacement option.

Belichick hasn’t been happy with the performance of the defense this year, particularly in the red zone or on third down, but it’s a hard sell to say it’ll improve by removing Collins. The Patriots have weakened their defense for the rest of the year and might only receive a late 4th round pick in return.

My big question: wasn’t that the whole reason for trading Chandler Jones?

Wasn’t the big conundrum the fact the Patriots wouldn’t have enough cap space to sign Jones, Collins, Hightower, ED Jabaal Sheard, CB Malcolm Butler, OT Marcus Cannon (surprise!) and the rest?

Trading Jones was supposed to allow the Patriots to sign all of the players and have some breathing room.

Now that Collins is gone, the Patriots have to sign all of their free agents, right? Maybe a Hightower or Butler contract extension is around the corner? Former Patriots executive Michael Lombardi is hinting that there might be more dominoes to fall. New England can certainly afford to retain all of their priority free agents now. Perhaps they’ll make a run at a free agent like WR Terrelle Pryor or RB Le’Veon Bell.

We’ll have to wait and see, and that’s what makes this trade all the more difficult to digest.