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Why does the official NFL transaction wire say the Patriots are trading LB Jamie Collins for a 2018 4th round pick?

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This should clear up some of the questions about this trade.

The official NFL transaction wire states that the New England Patriots have traded LB Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns for a draft selection choice, “Round 4, 2018 (Conditional)”. At first glance, this runs counter to the original reports where the Patriots were projected to receive a 2017 compensatory 3rd round pick.

A 2018 4th round pick is worth a lot less than a 2017 3rd round pick due to time value of draft capital. Teams can usually trade a mid-to-late round draft pick for a pick one round earlier in the subsequent draft. So a 2018 4th round pick hold similar value to a 2017 5th round pick.

And a 2017 5th round pick is, coincidentally, what the Patriots sent to the Browns for LB Barkevious Mingo. It is not the value you would expect in return for a player like Collins.

So what’s the deal?

Well, it’s important to note that compensatory draft picks have not been awarded yet. The Browns don’t have a late-3rd rounder to send to the Patriots and, therefore, the official transaction wire can’t say the Browns are giving up a draft pick they don’t have.

In all likelihood, the Browns will receive a 3rd round compensatory pick so long as Falcons C Alex Mack plays 80% of the remaining snaps this year.

The Patriots are set to receive the Browns 2018 4th round pick, with the condition that it will increase to a 2017 3rd rounder if the Browns are awarded one through the compensatory process.

I’m a little confused about the terms because there is such a big draft value difference in a late 3rd round pick and a future 4th round pick. The Patriots would be forfeiting roughly the draft value of a 4th round pick, per the Draft Value Chart, by waiting.

The Patriots didn’t want the Browns original 4th round pick in 2017 because the Patriots will lose their earliest 4th round selection due to the DeflateGate penalty- the Browns also don’t have a 2017 4th round pick after sending it to the Eagles during the trade for QB Carson Wentz in the 2016 draft.

A trade that would make more sense would be as follows:

The Patriots receive a conditional 2018 4th round pick. If the Browns receive a 2017 3rd round compensatory pick, then the Patriots get that selection. If the Browns only receive a 2017 4th round compensatory pick, then the Patriots will receive both the Browns 2017 compensatory and 2018 original 4th round picks.

I have not seen this as the trade scenario anywhere, so this is just fantasy GMing on my part, but my version of the trade makes more sense. The Patriots, Seahawks, and a hypothetical Browns 4th round compensatory pick should all come with 5-10 picks at the bottom of the 4th round, reducing the damage of losing the earliest pick.

Without the compensatory pick coming to the Patriots- as either a 3rd or a 4th- it would appear like New England is leaving a lot of value on the table.

But since compensatory picks haven’t been awarded, the Browns cannot include them in the official trade language, and that’s why the Patriots are currently receiving a 2018 4th rounder for Jamie Collins.