Few months on the NFL calendar are as busy as March: while the season is over, teams will make plenty of transactions with free agency starting and the salary cap going in effect — this, in turn, also leads to clubs regularly getting rid of high-cost players. The New England Patriots made such a move earlier this week, when they released tight end Dwayne Allen whose $7.3 million cap hit was not reasonable relative to his production.
Another 2019 cap casualty was just announced: the Cleveland Browns parted ways with Jamie Collins. Cutting the veteran linebacker saves the team $9.25 million this season, and also naturally creates the question about whether or not a reunion with his former team could be on the horizon. Collins, of course, started his career with the Patriots before he was traded to Cleveland midway through the 2016 season.
In the 3.5 seasons after New England drafted him 52nd overall, Collins became a fixture on the club’s defense — and a playmaker. Appearing in a combined 57 games during his Patriots tenure, the versatile linebacker registered 13.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and 7 interceptions. An able coverage linebacker, Collins was voted to the Pro Bowl during his final full season in New England (2015).
His 2016 performance in combination with an expiring contract, however, led the Patriots to move him to the Browns at the trade deadline for a conditional third-round selection (one that was later sent to the New Orleans Saints as part of the Brandin Cooks trade). And therein lies the reason why you shouldn’t get your hopes up for a reunion: New England was willing to get rid of Collins after his performance dipped during his final season.
Two-and-a-half years later, Collins’ play remained inconsistent — hence the Browns parting ways with him and his costly contract. And even though a) there have been rumors about the club being interested in bringing him back into the fold last year, b) New England could certainly find a way to use his athleticism, and c) the Patriots have a new defensive staff in place, seeing the 29-year old return to his former stomping grounds should not be expected.
Furthermore, the world champions are in solid shape at the linebacker position as it is: Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are a solid one-two punch, while Elandon Roberts had his best season to date last year. Add 2018 rookies Christian Sam and the especially promising Ja’Whaun Bentley, and you have yourself a solid-looking core at the position — without having to pay top dollar to get Jamie Collins.