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Transcript: Former Patriots exec Mike Lombardi explains why Bill Belichick traded LB Jamie Collins to the Browns

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A good inside look on why the Patriots made this trade.

Former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi joined the Bills Simmons podcast to break down and explain why Patriots head coach Bill Belichick traded LB Jamie Collins to the Browns for a conditional 3rd round draft pick.

Transcript below the podcast.

Lombardi’s initial thoughts on the trade

“Well, I think Collins has played poorly all season, you know he’s going to be a free agent at the end of the year, they had no interest in really signing him for next year, and the way he’s played through the first eight games, he was getting demoted within each game.

“Yesterday, the second play of the game, he goes, he just kind of does whatever he was gonna do, he kind of played with no enthusiasm, and he seemed like he didn’t really want to play. It seemed like he was playing on the 0-11 Southern Mississippi team that he played in college.

“And so I think at some point they have to send a message to the rest of the team. Their defense is a liability right now. I mean, they’ve made quarterbacks, whether it’s Tyrod Taylor, whether it’s Ryan Tannehill, whether it’s Landry Jones, they’ve made them look pretty good and I think Bill needed to send a message to the team that this is not going to be tolerated and I think this trade does that.”

On the remaining depth on the roster

“I think Elandon Roberts is the best run defender. I mean, Dont’a Hightower is not playing very well either. I mean, look, that’s the thing that always cracks me up about sports people evaluating other teams. They talk about the great talent of the Patriots front seven and then nobody makes a play.

“Well, you know you can rush Jamie Collins and yet he hasn’t gotten near the quarterback. I mean, at some point you just have to evaluate what you see, and what I’ve seen out of the Patriots defense is subpar players, players playing below, including Jabaal Sheard’s not having the season he needs to have, I mean their best defensive player in the front seven has been Alan Branch, and Elandon Roberts, the sixth round draft pick out of the University of Houston, is one of their best run defenders. He has to play more.

“And so I think this defense has really been a liability, and I think what Bill’s statement today to the team is that we’re not going to tolerate it. We’re not going to allow this to happen. And he needs to get control of it. And I think they lack a leadership element on their defense. McCourty on the backend certainly can help, but their defensive leadership has been void all season.”

On the Patriots defensive weaknesses

“I mean, look, he’s [Collins] not going to play any harder for the Browns. He’s not going to do anything. He just did not play well. I watched the game tape this morning and their defense just sticks on blocks, I mean it’s not very good. They’re not playing with any physicality or emotion. And when they play against a good team, they are going to have trouble. And as good as the offense is playing, you can’t score 30 every week to win.”

On why the Patriots are trading Collins

“The one thing you have to do, Donnie Walsh said this to me in 1990s, or the late 80s, ‘You’ve got to know what you’re trading before you make a trade.’ And that’s the one caveat that Belichick knows. He knows what he’s trading. He’s trading a guy who is very talented, but very moody, very inconsistent with his effort, and so for him to pay that player that type of money sends a message to the locker room that, look, I tolerate this and I reward this. He’s never doing that. And when Belichick, every message he sends in terms of a contract is a message to the locker room.”

On why the Patriots are trading Collins now

“Well they can get something out of it, I mean there’s no doubt. But the reality here, is I think what he [Belichick] decided was he could have held on to him and gotten a compensatory pick himself, or he could have traded him and cashed in for now and that’s what I think he decided to do.”

More on the Patriots defensive struggles

“The defense hasn’t played well ever. I mean, it hasn’t played well all season. I mean, the people are like, you know, I go on these shows and talk about it, and it’s only because they’re able to outscore people. I mean, Andy Dalton was playing well against them. I mean, every quarterback, the second half of the Miami game, Tyrod Taylor, the Buffalo Bills moved the ball on them. It was just the end of the half and Brady was just too good. They have to fix the defense. They’re not going to Houston to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl with the way the defense has been playing, I can promise you that.”

On post-trade bye week adjustments

“There’s no bye in New England, they’ll probably have Friday and Saturday off and they’ll be back in there, but they need to fix this defense. And that’s been something he’s been waiting to do. The second play of the game when Gillislee ran for 28 yards and Jamie Collins backdoored it and two plays later he was out of the game, you know it was going to be over with. At some point, there’s a saying in coaching, you’re either coaching it or you’re allowing it to happen. Well, Belichick decided that he’s not going to allow it to happen anymore.”

Former Patriots LB Matt Chatham explains the second play of the game that Lombardi is highlighting here:

Personally, I don’t think the Patriots defense has been as bad as Lombardi is painting it out to be. I’d argue that some of the coaching decisions have been more at fault- specifically the softer coverage in the second half of the Dolphins game and the decision not to pressure Steelers QB Landry Jones.

But it would seem like Collins, for all of his athletic ability and clear talent on the field, just “freelanced” a little bit too much for the coaching staff, which puts a premium on consistency.

There’s a reason the Patriots kept ED Jabaal Sheard over ED Chandler Jones- Jones has an undeniably higher ceiling that showed up from time to time, but Sheard brought his steady, good quality play every single snap. I’d argue that trading Collins in favor of retaining Dont’a Hightower is following the same line of reasoning.