Review: The Jamie Collins trade

I have a whole bunch of stuff I need to get to, but let’s address this trade fast, before it spoils.

1. Collins was a #2 pick in 2012. His rookie contract is expiring– one of many players who could leave. New England decided to get what they could for him; it turned out to be a #3 pick.

2. This isn’t a bad deal for the Patriots. Yes, they’re trading a low #2 (the 20th pick– 52nd overall in 2013) for a low #3 (2018 note: it turned out to be pick 96). But they got:

  • 3.5 seasons of play– 50 games played; 41 starts, only 5 games missed)
  • A player who helped them reach the AFC Championship three times– and make the Super Bowl and win it in 2015.
  • Someone who was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2015; and could arguably have gone in 2014

And those four years came at a bargain salary. (Collins has been playing on a very inexpensive rookie contract– which is why he has been so unhappy.)

That’s an enormous amount of value for a team looking to win it all every year. Now they get a new draft pick and a chance to try again.

New England bundled that 96th pick with a #4 (slot 124) to Detroit, in order to move up 11 spots and take OT Antonio Garcia, who got great ratings– then missed the entire 2017 season with an unknown injury. (2018 note: blood clots on his lungs) It doesn’t always go as planned.

 

3. One detail in the trade makes things interesting. If the Patriots let Collins sign with another team at the end of the season, the NFL would have awarded them a compensation pick in the third round of the 2018 draft. The deal gives him one of the Browns compensation picks for 2017– at the end of this year.

Is Bill Belicheat making the trade because Tom Brady is getting old and he wants to restock his roster ASAP? Or did he do it because he thinks the 2017 draft is super-great– or maybe the 2018 draft isn’t? Your guess is as good as mine

4. If you’re wondering how the Browns managed to get Collins, that’s pretty easy.

New England manages salaries aggressively. They win every year because they want good players– at a reasonable cost–  at every position. (Having a few highly-paid stars stars at some spots and whatever they can get cheaply at others is how the Steelers do things. That doesn’t work so well.)

If a player wants to play for the Patriots, he must agree to take less than fair market value. (And FMV value will be well below the wads of cash a bad team– whose GM is on the hot seat– will throw at him.)

If he doesn’t want to do that, New England will move him.


5. Collins is also a malcontent, We know this because his  agent is Bus Cook.

Cook is (I think) the second-worst agent in the NFL (behind Drew Rosenhaus). His roster of current or past clients includes Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss, Adalius Thomas, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton and Steve McNair.

Most agents try to put a player on a team where he’ll (a) make good money, (b) play for a coach on his wavelength– in a scheme that suits him, (c) have winning seasons and make the playoffs and (d) avoid situations that will cause problems for him.

As you can tell by that client list, Cook isn’t one of those guys. He puts a player on the team that will pay the player the most money (which means higher commissions for Cook). As long as the team offers more money than anyone else, they can keep the player. That usually works out very badly for the player:

  • If you follow the NFL at all, you know about all the trouble Moss, Cutler and Cam Newton cause(d).
  • Johnson (who was arguably better than Moss) stayed with a dreadful Lions team– retiring rather than playing longer.
  • McNair stayed with an idiot coach (Jeff Fisher) who got him beat to hell
  • Thomas was a linebacker in the Paul Kruger mode– went for the big payday, didn’t like the new team or the coach (New England) and was out of the league after three years.

There are players– the ones who only want the money–  who love Cook. He’s one of the two agents (Rosenhaus the other) who players sign with when they want a lot of money– and nothing else. Most players stay away from Cook

6. A couple of reports say that Collins, after he turned down New England’s offer, began ignoring his defensive assignments. Instead of doing what the play call required (which was sometimes sealing edges or covering tight ends), he was going for the big plays– sacks, stuffs, interceptions, knockdowns, fumbles– on every play.

Allegedly that’s why New England traded him? Why keep a short-timer who is turning into a cancer?


As for the Browns:

1. The one piece of positive news is that it will be easy to retain Collins after this season. All they have to do is back up the truck– pay him 30% more than the best contract any linebacker got last off-season– and guarantee at half of it.

2. Of course, if the Browns wanted to do that, they could have done it– without giving up the draft pick– at the end of the season. The only value they get from giving up a #3 is the opportunity to negotiate with Collins between now and the start of free agency. That’s a pretty low return on a #3 pick.

3. His impact on the team? This is just Return of Paul Kruger. They’re getting a player who fits  a scheme really well– and is surrounded by players who make him look better than he actually is.

Now he’ll be on a team whose scheme doesn’t suit him– with weaker players around him. With Ray Horton running the show, I can pretty much guarantee you this will be the last Pro Bowl Collins ever sees.

4. This deal illustrates something I said in the season preview: Whatever the Marx Brothers say, Hue Jackson is running the show.Jimmy Haslam told him that Browns wanted to try things a new way– but if Jackson felt he needed something, Jimmy would make sure he had it.

I don’t have a lot of respect for Sashi Brown or Paul DePodesta. But this is not the kind of move that a front office that understands analytics makes.

This is the sort of deal a Coach-GM with no patience pulls off after they lose another game to fall to 0-8.

In the Jets preview, I repeated a comment from a writer who covered the 2010 Raiders, He said that Jackson wouldn’t come to the Browns expecting to rebuild for a year of two. Jackson knows that Marvin Lewis took over the Bengals after a 2-14 year; they went 8-8 in his first season. He expected to do the same thing. It’s not happening, and he’s freaking out.

If the Browns made this move, the almost certainly did it under duress. Try explaining to the angry owner why you don’t want to spend a #2 pick for a Pro Bowl linebacker.

5. As for the likelihood this will work out: Cleveland made a deal with New England.

Mary Kay Greenhouse will report it is a great deal (the “NFL Sources” she will be quoting are Bus Cook and Hue Jackson), but nobody else will.

6. Can Collins be a leader to the young players? He’s being thrown off the team because he didn’t want to follow assignments. You tell me.

 

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