ESPN’s Mike Reiss published a couple interesting notes about the Patriots trading LB Jamie Collins in his must-read weekly column.
The first being that the Patriots quietly agree with what former executive Michael Lombardi has been blasting about Collins all over every medium you can think of. They thought Collins didn’t give his effort on every play and that he would “freelance” at times. Reiss notes that the Patriots probably didn’t ask Lombardi to go on a media tour, but the sentiments are shared.
The second note is that the Patriots wanted to receive immediate compensation for Collins because he wasn’t a part of the future- and if they waited until the end of the year, there was no guarantee the Patriots would get anything.
Remember that the Patriots only get a compensatory pick for a departing free agent if the Patriots don’t sign anyone else in return. By getting a draft pick now, the Patriots have acquired draft capital and can still go out and make a play for whatever free agent they wish to pay. This makes me wonder what free agents they have their eyes on- or if they just want to remain flexible.
But the biggest note from Reiss is about the Patriots trade partner.
“Director of player personnel Nick Caserio worked to create as much value as possible in a low-leverage situation,” Reiss writes. “NFL teams generally don’t want to trade halfway through the season and in this case, once the Patriots decided that dealing Collins was a case of addition by subtraction (which is key context), it was about getting the most value possible as they were moving on, regardless...there were other offers, but nothing better than Cleveland's.”
So while we all scratched our collective heads at the low level of compensation, apparently teams weren’t as interested in acquiring Collins as Patriots fans might have thought.
Any team trading for Collins would have half a season in 2016 and then have to use the franchise tag in order to retain Collins for the future. That team could take advantage of the compensatory pick process if they let Collins walk and free agency and could receive a 2018 third rounder, but that would mean the new team is handcuffed and unable to participate in free agency.
So any team looking to add Collins would have to factor in the franchise tag cap hit in 2017 and that probably scared away most suitors and reduced the asking price.
The only way the team would have beaten the Browns offer would be if they offered their third round pick, straight up because the Patriots wouldn’t be interested in receiving a fourth round pick due to the DeflateGate punishment. The other teams in line to receive compensatory third either traded the pick (Rams), are all set at linebacker (Panthers), or would not be an option for a player of Collins caliber due to their status as rivals (Dolphins, Broncos, Ravens).
That left the Browns as the only compensatory trade option because Cleveland is essentially NFL purgatory and the Patriots probably won’t see them for another three seasons.
I do wonder what other teams were offering. I could see a team like the 49ers or Washington showing interest, but they probably lost interest when the price tag was a third rounder.