The Patriots made some waves on Monday with the surprise announcement that they were trading outside linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns. As more details emerge via former assistant to the Patriots’ coaching staff and current FOX NFL analyst Mike Lombardi, Collins made this an easy decision for New England.
Collins was a second-round pick in 2013, and his versatility and athleticism made him an asset to the New England defense. He was set to become a free agent at the end of the season, and the decision to trade him for a third-round compensatory pick seemed odd considering that the Patriots would almost certainly receive a compensatory pick if they would have just let him walk in free agency.
After trade details emerged on Monday, Lombardi tweeted that Collins’ tendency to freelance on the field had been a contributing factor.
Collins on the second play of the game does whatever he wants and Bills gain 28 yards. Been happening all year. It was not going to continue— michael lombardi (@mlombardifoxtv) October 31, 2016
On Tuesday, Lombardi expanded on this idea, adding during an appearance on Boston’s WEEI that it wasn’t just the freelancing that was a problem for Collins.
Lombardi was a guest on Bill Simmons’ podcast Monday and broke down the trade, going into great detail about Collins’ inconsistent effort. He said this move didn’t just send a message to Collins, but to the entire team.
“The one thing you have to do, (former president of basketball operations for the Knicks and Pacers) Donnie Walsh said this to me in the 1990s, or the late ’80s, ‘You’ve got to know what you’re trading before you make a trade.’ And that’s the one caveat that Belichick knows,” Lombardi said. “He knows what he’s trading.
“He’s trading a guy who is very talented, but very moody, very inconsistent with his effort, and so for him to pay that player that type of money sends a message to the locker room that, look, I tolerate this and I reward this.”
The MMQB’s Albert Breer noted that, as Collins looks toward free agency after the season, Lombardi’s comments may haunt him.
Hate to say it, but Mike Lombardi on Jamie Collins was so striking that Collins may have to answer for that stuff at the negotiating table.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) November 1, 2016
The Browns will need to make a decision on Collins following the season, and according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Collins will push for a contract that exceeds Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly’s, which is $12 million per year.
With contract talks looming after the season and a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Collins wanted “Von Miller money” from the Patriots, it was unlikely Collins was going to remain in New England. The trade made some sense, at least from that perspective.
What seemed like a shocking trade on Monday isn’t nearly as surprising today. If there’s one thing Bill Belichick and the Patriots won’t tolerate, it’s inconsistent effort on the field.