If you don’t live under a rock, then you’ve heard the Patriots traded All-Pro LB and All-World athlete Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns for a compensatory third-round selection.
If you are thinking this is not a good deal, you are probably right: New England 100% could have gotten more for him from other teams, even given the lack of control over him a team would have had over him (his contract expires this year). This looks like an absolutely boneheaded move from our perspective, but Belichick has done this before and still succeeded, so we’ll have to see whether or not it works out.
As bad as it may seem, there are legitimate justifications that can be made for making the move – and neither of them involve “he sucked” (that was not true) or “he freelanced” (that’s a load of crap, and no one complained when he was making big plays). The three reasons are pretty simple: upcoming free agents, an emerging linebacker, and a level of control they would not have had if he walked.
Reason 1: The Patriots have to pay a lot of people for next season.
Besides Jamie Collins, there are a significant number of people due for raises for next year. Among them are LB Dont’a Hightower, DE Jabaal Sheard, CBs Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, and TE Martellus Bennett. While Collins was probably more important that everyone on that list outside of Hightower (they were 1A and 1B), the money he was asking for – well over $100 million – would have hindered whom you could pay.
Plus, Rob Gronkowski wants more money, and they are going to have to give it to him eventually. With Collins on the books, you probably get Hightower and one other player (we’ll say Butler), but the other three upcoming FAs walk, and they have to squeeze money for the game’s best TE. Without him? Hightower, Butler and Gronk get their money easily, and they can figure out how to make it work for the other guys.
So, eliminating Collins now gives them no excuse to not at least make an effort for signing those guys, which should help ease the loss for the fan base.
Reason 2: Elandon Roberts.
As the season has gone one, one name on the defense has really started to stick out. Elandon Roberts, a rookie sixth-rounder out of Houston, has taken over Jerod Mayo’s MLB role and run away with it. While guys like Jonathan Freeny struggled to succeed as a complementary linebacker, Roberts has thrived, finishing tackles left and right and helping in both the pass and run defense.
Some people may not have seen him, but he is someone you should definitely get to know. He has, in fact, been so good that there were times where one could have argued he could have outplayed Collins. Roberts has made himself into a serviceable number two linebacker next to Hightower, and because of how many nickel packages the Pats play, he almost made Collins expendable (hence, why he only played 48 snaps Sunday).
Reason 3: By trading him now, the Pats could control where Collins went.
After reading the first two arguments, one could still argue that they shouldn’t have traded Collins. Keeping him would not have impacted their offseason plans, and his talent is still worlds ahead of that of Roberts. However, this reason is probably the only one that is absolutely indisputable.
If they decide to let him play out this year and let him walk, anyone with cap space can give him the money he desires. For example, if the Atlanta Falcons, a contender this season, decided to give him a fat contract, then he would head to another contender and still make a ton of money.
However, by moving him to Cleveland – the gutter of the NFL – now, they guarantee that at least in the short-term (1.5 years, because Cleveland will franchise tag him if no agreement is reached) he cannot harm them come playoff time. Additionally, the Browns are so far away from contending that he cannot make an impact upon the playoffs for at least a few years.
Plus, they probably won’t play Cleveland again until 2019, the next time the Pats face the AFC North, so Collins won’t even be relevant in their game-planning for a long time.
I’m not saying this was a good deal; I’m just trying to justify their reasons for doing it. Do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment below, and let me know what you think.
Cover photo courtesy cdn.insidethepylon.com.