The Jamie Collins Trade: Stupid or Genius?

Joe Stafford '18, Contributor

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“It had to be Cleveland?” I’m sure Jamie Collins has asked this to himself and his agent multiple times over the past week. In the most surprising move since the Jimmy Graham trade in 2015, Jamie Collins was dealt from the New England Patriots to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a conditional third round draft pick. Twitter exploded after the deal was announced. Former Patriot and current Cardinal Chandler Jones was especially shocked, saying, “Sheeesshhh”, showing obvious disapproval. Even players on the current Pats roster were surprised.

Defensive captain Devin McCourtey said, “Jamie is arguably our best defensive player. When you get a guy like Jamie who was here for four years on the team, a very productive player, to lose him is a bit shocking to everybody on the team.” Both should know by now, however, nothing should surprise you about Bill Belichick. “The Hoodie” has been the most unpredictable coach of the past decade and beyond. Not once has he hesitated from straying from his strategy, which is known to the world as the “Patriot Way.”

Some people (including myself at times) believe the Patriot Way is a product of the Kraft family being cheap and not wanting to pay a player what he deserves. To sum it up, if you are not doing your job, you’re gone. It is that simple. It has happened to many Patriot greats— Richard Seymour, Deion Branch, Ty Law, Wes Welker, Randy Moss, and even Teddy Bruschi. Given most of these players were at the back end of their careers (with the exception being Law), Belichick did not hesitate to get rid of them, no matter what they meant to the organization. This, in a way, makes the Collins trade more expected than originally thought. Collins, the athletic Pro-Bowl linebacker, was going into his contract year. He was not the only Patriot doing so. Dont’a Hightower, LeGarrette Blount, Malcolm Butler, and Martellus Bennett are some other key Patriot players set to hit the open market at the end of the year. Belichick had to make a decision: who was he going to keep? The answer? Not Jamie Collins. Hightower is the clear leader of the defense and is much more consistent than Collins, even if Collins has the edge in potential and athletic ability. Butler is slowly becoming one of the best corners in the NFL. Since becoming responsible for arguably the most memorable and clutch Super Bowl play ever two years ago, Butler has become a true #1 cornerback on this Pats defense. Support on the back end of the defense is invaluable given they already have ridiculous depth up front and in their linebacking core. By keeping Butler, they will solidify their defense as it gives them the ability to rush the passer with more confidence knowing they have Butler shutting down the opposing team’s #1 receiver.

Reports are now coming out that Collins was never an avid tape-watcher, which should be a staple of a Belichick/ Matt Patricia player. The Patriots have always valued smart, intelligent players. That tradition will not change for anyone, even a player as talented as Collins. Reports are also coming out saying that Patricia and the defensive staff were planning on making Collins a specialty player, not an every-down player. By moving Collins before this transition, Bill and company gave the impression that he was still up to snuff. What’s most frustrating about this entire thing is the Patriots could only get a third round pick for one of the most respected linebackers in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns’s front office is historically one of the worst in sports. Period. And the Patriots are typically thought of as the smartest organization in football, which begs the question: what was Bill thinking? You could not even swing Joe Thomas or Joe Haden out of that deal? You only got a third round pick that you’re going to end up trading for three sixth round picks. Why? That is the essence of the Patriot Way.

Another report came out saying that Belichick did it strategically. Could he have? It would not be surprising, just confusing. We’ve already discussed how the Patriots do not hesitate to get rid of players. Most of the time it has to do with pecuniary issues, which might tie in with Jamie Collins and the rest of the Pats’ contract-year players. Belichick very well might have traded Collins to show that everyone is expendable. History always repeats itself. Now, guys like Malcolm Butler or Martellus Bennett might be rethinking their contract aspirations in order to stay with the best team in the NFL. Additionally, the Patriots traded for former Browns first round pick Barkevious Mingo. Mingo was originally drafted to provide the Browns an athletic linebacker with multiple uses on the field, giving him the advantage to be placed anywhere in the box. The Patriots stole him for a 5th round pick, which clearly means that the Browns had very little reason to believe that Mingo would amount to anything. Do not be so sure. Mingo has the same play style as Collins; an athletic pass rusher that can play zone relatively well. Would Mingo taking on the Collins role and succeeding in it be so far-fetched? This wouldn’t be the first time Belichick has flipped a career around for a former Browns player. JaBaal Sheard was picked up two years ago and thrived as a pass rusher in the Pats system.

Who knows, maybe Bill is losing his touch and Collins really was the player he seems to be. Or, Belichick again pulls off a seemingly impossible task of changing Mingo into a Collins-level player and the Browns, being the Browns, somehow mess up the All-Pro player Collins is. I put nothing past Bill Belichick anymore. No matter what, trust in Bill

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The Jamie Collins Trade: Stupid or Genius?