Shock. Disgust. Speechlessness. Anger.
Those are the first feelings that ran through New England Patriots fans and media when the blockbuster bombshell news of All-Pro linebacker Jamie Collins being traded to the lowly Cleveland Browns dropped on Monday afternoon. What a great trick or treat special for Halloween!
Yuck. Why? OK, maybe this isn’t so bad. Jamie Collins was struggling. Someone had to go.
These are the ensuing thoughts and takes that filled my Twitter timeline throughout the afternoon. Honestly, we are still trying to get over that initial shock that the athletic beast known as Jamie Collins will no longer be roaming in the Patriots defense.
Let’s run through the analysis of deal:
Patriots had to prioritze an LB.
While the timing of the trade is the most bizarre element. I mean, why would a team trade away an All-Pro caliber linebacker even though he was in a contract year? It’s a question some of us are still asking. But, the Patriots made the right choice. Some may have been able to make an argument that Collins was the player to keep over Dont’a Hightower, but that’s the wrong move. Thank goodness the Patriots got it right.
Hightower is the superior player with his true ability to play all three downs and quarterback a defense with his impressive on-and-off-field intellect. Hightower is also the more consistent player who is better at stopping the run, he’s a better pass-rusher and Hightower is quite strong in coverage, too. Don’t get me wrong, Collins is very good player. But, Hightower is a generational do-it-all inside linebacker who can dissect an offense and manage all areas of the defense on the fly. Those skills are so valuable.
It was a no-brainer that Hightower had to be the pick for an extension.
Collins wasn’t playing up to the level the Patriots wanted.
No knock on Collins, he’s a phenomenal player. But, Collins wasn’t playing at the All-Pro level he played at last season. Too many times this season, Collins has been caught out of position where he is “freelancing” on plays. Collins has abandoned assignments, gone off-script and botched some plays that otherwise could have been made in that area of the defense. We can say all of this in retrospect and it isn’t to trash on Collins, it’s just what started to become more evident.
The perception of Collins’ athleticism clouded our judgment that he wasn’t playing the greatest football right now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more naturally gifted, ridiculous athlete in a Patriots uniform than Collins. But, athleticism doesn’t always equal execution. When you miss plays and expose the defense, which didn’t happen a lot but happened more than a handful of times, it adds up.
Injuries may have played a role in Collins’ performance in 2016. Though, he is still a remarkable player that wasn’t doing his job.
The Patriots have placed all faith in Elandon Roberts.
Sixth-round rookie Elandon Roberts out of Houston has come on like a force. In a subtle way of possible foreshadowing, Roberts was paired with Hightower during the Patriots’ win over the Bills. The Patriots may have using this opportunity as an audition for Roberts to take the job and put the writing on the wall for Collins’ departure.
While Roberts has a long way to go in his development, especially when dropping into coverage, Roberts is a better inside-linebacker prospect. Roberts plays downhill, hits his gaps and is a very smart player who doesn’t deter from the defensive plans. Roberts pairs very well with Hightower and once again as all things are business decisions in New England, he’s way cheaper than Collins (going forward).
Roberts is absolutely not better than Collins! But, he does offer a style that fits the ideal Patriots’ play-style.
Pass-rushing is a specialty the Patriots don’t want to pay.
Collins gradually began to morph into a pass-rusher, which might explain why he wanted Von Miller-like money. Collins was dreaming big of getting paid by the Patriots, which was never going to happen. Pass-rushers garner a ton of money thanks to Von Miller, Olivier Vernon and company. Collins, who wasn’t used exclusively as a pass-rusher, clearly wanted to be more like that type of player.
The Patriots are more than happy with having a stable of pass-rushers that are cheap options, but deep and fresh when used in a rotation. The rotation and distribution of cap space allows the Patriots to accomplish more. Collins wasn’t worth the money if the team extended him in 2017.
The return is bizarre.
The idea that Collins is only worth a third-round pick from the Cleveland Browns at best is ridiculous. The fact that the pick isn’t even the Browns’ top pick in the third round is an even bigger joke. Or is it? The public perception of Jamie Collins might be far higher than the NFL’s perception. Plus, he is a player who isn’t under contract on 2017. The uncertainty of knowing Collins would sign an extension for 2017 along with how the league probably views him, lowered his value. The Patriots took what they could get.
The one major question mark is that the Patriots pick from the Browns is a compensatory third-round pick, at best. It could be pushed to the fourth round depending on what the NFL decides for compensatory picks in 2017 for the Browns. And here’s a not-so-friendly reminder, the Patriots still lose their top pick in the 2017 fourth round due to Deflategate.
Maybe there is more to the story.
The story can get deeper. The Patriots didn’t like Collins “freelancing.” Supposedl,y he had an incident with Matt Patricia. Collins didn’t like the Patriots attempts at a first offer for an extension. Maybe, Collins just got ticked off at the whole situation. Sometimes we don’t even know the whole story.
The deal still doesn’t make total sense. Collins was a Pro Bowl-caliber player who still had a lot to contribute to the team. The Patriots viewed moving Collins now as a greater value to the organization than keeping him for a Super Bowl run. The Patriots feel Roberts can step in and do his job.
Sometimes we have to trust in Bill Belichick. Belichick traded Logan Mankins much to the chagrin of basically everyone…they won the Super Bowl. Belichick has graded good players and the moves tend to pay off.
Now, sign Hightower and Malcolm Butler to extensions as soon as possible. Don’t forget about Jabaal Sheard and Martellus Bennett, too.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary