Look, I don't think anyone expected to be talking about this a couple days after a blowout win in Buffalo. On Monday morning, the New England Patriots traded Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns for a conditional pick. The draft pick is still being debated, as some have it being a 2017 third-round pick, while others believe it is a 2018 fourth-round pick. There are so many different ways this could come to fruition, but it truthfully does not matter. The Patriots basically gave Collins away for nothing. However, is the trade as bad as it looks? Here are some quick points to considering before grabbing your pitchforks and heading to Gillette Stadium.
1. Jame Collins Is An Unrestricted Free Agent After This Year
At the end of the 2016 season, Jamie Collins would have been free to leave the Patriots if the franchise tag was not placed on him. With linebackers set to receive a $14.66 million franchise tag this offseason, the Patriots would have had to re-sign him to a longterm extension rather than risking some serious cap room for next season. According to multiple sources, the Patriots were willing to offer Collins an average annual value of roughly $11 million. However, other local reporters are reporting the Patriots never made Collins an offer. While the guarantee numbers have not yet been released, that is a more than fair offer for a player that has trouble staying on the field. Trading a former second-round pick for a third-round pick is not ideal, but the Patriots clearly felt, for some reason, that it was time to move on from him.
2. Inconsistency And Durability Concerns
As far as defensive difference makers, Collins may be the most talented and dynamic player in all of football. He is an athletic freak that is big enough to cover tight ends, but also quick enough to explode up the middle and rush the quarterback. That being said, Collins tends to play out of control and has a tendency to wander in coverage. Browns head coach Hue Jackson, upon learning of the acquisition, described Collins as a "freelancer." Instead of staying at his assignment, Collins will try to make a big play. In Belichick's system, that won't fly. Furthermore, Collins has been unable to stay on the field with any type of consistency since entering the NFL. Last year, Collins was ravaged by a mysterious illness that kept him out of the first four games, and he how the regular season, and has already missed a game this year. If you're going to pay a guy upwards of $100 million, then you better hope he can stay on the field for a 16-game season.
3. Emergence Of Elandon Roberts
In the absence of Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower earlier in the season, sixth-round draft pick Elandon Roberts has emerged as a hidden gem for the Patriots. The former Houston Cougar was one of the best linebackers in all of college football last season; however, standing at 6-foot, he is one of the smaller guys you will see at the position. Nonetheless, Roberts has the unique ability to get downhill in a hurry and stuff the gaps in the offensive line. The Patriots now have two linebackers, including Hightower, who play typical Patriots football. They don't necessarily do anything great, but rather cover all facets of the game. Collins is not that type of player.
4. Cap Flexibility
Think about the Patriots' cap situation roughly a year ago; New England was trying to figure out a plan to pay Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Malcolm Butler and Jamie Collins. Now, two of those players in Jones and Collins are playing for other teams and will likely get massive contracts this offseason. As for the Patriots, there is now no excuse to not signing Hightower and Butler. The Patriots will have massive cap flexibility this upcoming offseason and can explore a multitude of angles in order to put themselves in the best position to win. For example, the Patriots could look to bring back key players such as Jabaal Sheard, Martellus Bennett and Logan Ryan. The possibilities are truly endless. According to a few different national media outlets, the Patriots could have up to $53 million in cap space this offseason.
5. Another Trade On The Horizon?
I get that a lot of fans are angry. Furthermore, I can see why people are angry specifically with this trade, as they believe the Patriots did not acquire enough while giving up a Pro Bowl linebacker. However, if you take a deeper look at the situation, you will realize the Patriots received pretty fair market value for Collins. With half of the season remaining, the Patriots snagged a third- or fourth-round pick. People were calling for Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas or Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden to be included in this deal, yet there is still time for the Patriots to work some magic. The Patriots have been quietly stacking their linebacking core with quality players, so perhaps this move had been on the horizon for awhile. Perhaps the Patriots have another deal waiting in the wings. Time will tell.