There were reports earlier this week that Cleveland was going to get a deal done with the veteran linebacker by the weekend.
The Browns have made significant progress on an extension with pending free-agent Jamie Collins, sources said. Deal to be done by weekend— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 20, 2017
Browns head coach Hue Jackson was understandably excited. “It’s no secret how I feel about Jamie Collins,” Jackson said. “He’s an outstanding football player and a guy we think can be part of the foundation of a tremendous defense. I was excited when we were able to trade for him last season, and now, I’m even more excited knowing that he is going to part of our future.”
For reference, Collins is getting paid with the best of them:
Only linebackers with higher average per year than Jamie Collins are Von Miller, Justin Houston, Clay Matthews. All outside/edge players.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 23, 2017
Collins expressed thankfulness, and optimism for the future. “I want to thank the Cleveland Browns organization for giving me this opportunity,” Collins said. “From the day I walked in the door, I felt welcomed by my new teammates and everyone in this organization. The past is the past as far as last season’s record, but today is a new day.”
The Browns will have $107.46 million in cap space to spend this offseason, so the team definitely had enough money to sign Collins to a huge contract. Now that Cleveland signed him to this extension, it will now have the chance to possibly franchise tag receiver Terrelle Pryor, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
Even though Cleveland went 1-15 in 2016, Collins said he would return if “the money is right.”
Collins was scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, but Cleveland decided that his performance with the team was enough to sign him to a long-term deal. The one-time Pro Bowler was acquired from the New England Patriots for a third-round pick one day before the trade deadline.
This was a shocking trade because Collins was performing at an elite level during his time in Foxborough. The veteran linebacker was coming off of a Pro Bowl season and was a great player on the Patriots’ defense.
In eight games with the Browns, Collins registered 69 tackles and two sacks. He is an every-down linebacker who can make plays while defending the run and pass.
Cleveland has a lot of cap space to use during the free agency period, so it wanted to use a lot of that money to sign one of the best linebackers in football. Collins could be the leader of this defense, and former Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton praised the 27-year-old linebacker.
“Jamie's a former quarterback. He sees the whole field. He understands what he's looking at. He understands splits. He understands plays, and he's a guy that loves football. He's opening up (to his teammates), and he is very encouraging out on the field.”
Following the 2016 season, Cleveland decided to part ways with Horton. The Browns had the 31st-ranked defense and surrendered 28.3 points per game.
The Browns decided to hire Gregg Williams to become the team’s defensive coordinator. He spent the last three years with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams. Collins could be a good fit in Williams’ 4-3 defensive scheme.
Williams likes to dial up the blitz, and Collins is a talented pass rusher. This was a move Cleveland felt it had to make.
Collins’ contract extension is the first of many moves in the Browns rebuilding phase. During the season, they stockpiled draft picks and traded for Collins. Cleveland also has the first and 12th picks in this year’s draft, setting up a huge offseason for Cleveland.
While Collins played at a high level in the past, he was never considered to be among the elite linebackers who are now getting paid less than him.
Indeed, Collins deserves a contract extension, but it’s a risk for the Browns to pay him more than the top-notch linebackers after only one great year. Time will tell if this move will work out for Cleveland, but for now, the Browns have a solid linebacker to build around.