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2022 NFL free agency: Patriots reportedly pursued La’el Collins before re-signing Trent Brown

Related: Patriots re-sign Trent Brown to reported two-year contract

NFL: JAN 09 Cowboys at Eagles Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After already losing guards Ted Karras and Shaq Mason, the New England Patriots were looking at another member of their starting offensive line possibly leaving. Right tackle Trent Brown, who hit unrestricted free agency last week, was mulling his options before eventually deciding to return to New England.

Brown staying put is good news for the unit tasked with protecting second-year quarterback Mac Jones. However, it appears the Patriots were willing to invest in another lineman before retaining the incumbent starter on a reported two-year contract.

New England, after all, also pursued former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman La’el Collins. The team was seen as a realistic candidate to acquire the versatile lineman via trade, and according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler even put together a “competitive offer.”

Collins, however, was released by the Cowboys rather than traded. After entering the open market, he priced himself out of New England’s range and ended up signing a three-year, $30 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Super Bowl runner-ups were the first team bringing him in, and despite another anonymous club reportedly being lined up for a visit never allowed him to leave the building.

The 28-year-old will therefore join ex-Patriot Ted Karras on the club’s rebuilt offensive line. Karras’ former club, meanwhile, decided to bring back Trent Brown.

Whether or not Collins’ decision to join the Bengals sped up negotiations with Brown is not known at this time, but the two moves — offering Collins a deal and re-signing Brown — paint a clear picture: the Patriots felt they had to make an investment along their offensive line after losing Karras last week and trading Mason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; whether it was Collins or Brown, one veteran offensive tackle was getting paid.

In the end, it was the latter. New England therefore ensures some stability up front, with three of the five starters now set to return: Brown, left tackle Isaiah Wynn and center David Andrews.