Could a third tour of Patriots duty be in the cards for Jamie Collins?
The Lions are exploring trades involving the veteran linebacker, according to multiple reports. Collins, whose effort recently was questioned by Detroit head coach Dan Campbell, was held out of Wednesday’s practice for non-injury reasons.
So, the 31-year-old’s time in Detroit seemingly is nearing an end. And, predictably, many have reacted to the news by speculating whether Collins could land in New England — again.
But does a Collins-Patriots reunion make sense for either side? It’s hard to justify it.
Collins’s NFL career has been an interesting one. Taken 52nd overall by the Patriots in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Southern Mississippi product emerged as a star in New England over three years (winning one Super Bowl) before being shipped to Cleveland in a 2016 midseason trade. Collins signed a lucrative four-year contract with the Browns during the ensuing offseason, but flamed out after two seasons and was released in March of 2019. He signed a one-year deal with the Patriots two months later, went on to win another Lombardi Trophy then signed a three-year contract with the Lions.
Despite the peaks and valleys, Collins has remained a relatively consistent player: freakishly athletic, mostly impactful and prone to both freelancing and lapses in effort. Through two games this season, he ranks 24th among all linebackers, per Pro Football Focus. He’s racked up 10 combined tackles, one quarterback hit and one fumble recovery.
Collins hasn’t been worth the money in Detroit, but there’s no denying he’s been at his best when playing for Bill Belichick. The three best seasons of his career, in terms of overall PFF grade, came in 2014, 2015 and 2019, respectively.
So, the knee-jerk reaction to mention the Patriots as a potential destination is fair. However, it doesn’t make a ton of sense.
New England is deeper at linebacker than it’s been in years. Matt Judon and Josh Uche offer similar explosion as pass-rushers, and Kyle Van Noy is more versatile. Dont’a Hightower is Dont’a Hightower, even if he’s not quite as good as he was two seasons ago, and Ja’Whaun Bentley offers more reliable inside linebacker depth than Collins would.
The Patriots are good at linebacker. Yeah, they could use more speed, and Collins brings plenty of that even at 31 years old, but not so much that he would transform this defense. Collins probably wouldn’t see a ton of playing time, and understandably would be upset about it.
As for the money, New England could make it work. The Patriots currently have just north of $3 million in cap space, and Collins barely would fit.
Here’s a useful breakdown from Patriots salary cap expert Miguel Benzan:
Is Collins worth that? Perhaps, but it’s debatable.
Ultimately, if the Patriots are going to make a move for a defensive player that requires salary cap maneuvering, it should be for either an interior defensive lineman or a cornerback. The run defense has not been good — Davon Godchaux thus far has been a disappointment — and the secondary is brutally thin without Stephon Gilmore, who will miss at least the first six weeks of the season while on injured reserve.
So, there are better deals for the Patriots to make. A Collins reunion is fun to talk about, as most potential Patriots reunions are, but fans probably shouldn’t get their hopes up.