With just over 24 hours before Tuesday’s trade deadline, the Cleveland Browns made a huge splash in free agency; just not involving any of the names that Cleveland has been floating out. The Browns acquired Pro Bowl LB Jamie Collins from the New England Patriots for a compensatory 3rd-round pick. This is not the first deal between the two teams this season involving a linebacker, as Cleveland sent former 1st-round pick Barkevious Mingo to the Pats earlier this season for a 5th-round pick.
According to multiple sources, the driving force behind the Patriots pursuing this deal was the lack of movement in contract talks between the team and Collins. With his contract up after this season, Collins was reportedly asking for “Von Miller” money, or somewhere in the range of $100 million+ over 6-years, with around $70 million guaranteed. New England obviously didn’t value him that highly, or even highly enough to keep him on an approximately $15 million franchise tag after this season, and made the move to deal him to Cleveland, a team that has one of the highest cap spaces in the league.
What Cleveland is getting is a young, talented linebacker to bolster an already strong corps of players featuring Demario Davis and Christian Kirksey in the middle, with rookies Emmanuel Ogbah and Joe Schobert on the outside. His athleticism and versatility will allow him to play both inside or outside, an asset that will be invaluable to this team. Collins does provide more strength in an area that Davis isn’t as capable in, pass coverage. Cleveland has allowed the fifth most passing yards this season, so this move addresses multiple needs on a defense that has really been getting exposed in recent weeks.
Collins, 27, made his first Pro Bowl last year, his third year in the league, and has put up some impressive numbers in that time. Through three-and-a-half season, Collins has already totaled 180 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and five interceptions. The trouble will be making a player of Collins’ caliber want to stay in a place like Cleveland, after playing his entire career up to this point for a team that does nothing but win.
While Cleveland does have a lot of cap room – nearly $50 million this year and almost $60 million in 2017 – that is not taking into consideration any re-signings the team will likely have. Assuming Cleveland isn’t able to come to a long-term deal with Collins, they will still have the option to franchise Collins, and if he continues to put up number like he had in New England, they likely will designate him with that tag.
Cleveland now has until 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon to make any other deals they may be looking for, but they have almost certainly taken the prize for biggest blockbuster of this year’s deadline.