The New England Patriots added several fresh faces on the heels of their sixth Super Bowl title, but it’s an old friend who’s been turning heads in Foxboro this offseason.
ESPN.com published a piece Friday looking at the “surprise offseason standout” for each of the 32 franchises now that organized team activities and mandatory minicamps are done, and Mike Reiss pointed to linebacker Jamie Collins in assessing the Patriots’ developments to date.
Here’s what Reiss wrote about Collins:
Signed to a modest one-year deal in May, Collins flashed speed and playmaking ability on defense while being inserted into a top spot on the punt-protection unit. The initial projection was that Collins would add depth on defense and potentially have to fight for a roster spot based on the way his first stint in New England ended in 2016, but now he looks as if he will be a key cog alongside returning off-the-line linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Elandon Roberts.
Collins, a second-round pick in 2013, spent his first three-plus seasons with the Patriots before being shipped to the Cleveland Browns at the 2016 NFL trade deadline. He subsequently signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Browns, who eventually released him this past March, opening the door for a return to New England.
Collins is just 29 years old, so it’s fair to project he has some good football left in the tank, even if he doesn’t return to the All-Pro level he reached during the 2015 season. It’ll be interesting to see how Bill Belichick uses the returning veteran in New England’s defense in 2019.