It’s not often the prohibitive favorites on the AFC side of the ledger trade perhaps their most talented defensive player on the eve of the deadline, but the Bill Belichick New England Patriots are hardly defined by convention.
Or are they?
The mentality in Foxborough has always been, it’s better to give up on a player a year too early than a year too late.
Talented three-down linebacker Jamie Collins went from the penthouse to the outhouse on Monday when the Patriots set him adrift to 0-8 Cleveland in exchange for a conditional draft pick.
The deal, reportedly for a projected third-round compensatory choice, or a fourth-round pick if the Browns don’t get what’s expected come next April, doesn’t make all that much sense for New England from a pure football perspective.
But, there is more than meets the eye here, most notably Collins is in the final year of his rookie deal and in line for a huge pay increase next season. Meanwhile, he’s having a down season and he’s been prone to freelance, at least if you believe the knocks out the door from those close to the Patriots.
For instance, long-time Belichick acolyte Mike Lombardi took to Twitter after news of the deal broke to quickly get out the Patriots’ side of the story.
“In the end, we did what we felt was best for the football team,’’ Belichick said during an afternoon appearance on WEEI radio. “There were a lot of things to take into consideration. I’m sure we could bring up a lot of points to talk about, but in the end, that’s really the bottom line.”
When asked point blank if Collins’s contract demands contributed to the shocking move, Belichick sort of confirmed it: “I think you could bring up a lot of things and they all probably play into the conversation.’’
On the field, the emergence of rookie Elandon Roberts likely made the Patriots at least a little more comfortable as did the recent acquisition Kyle Van Noy from Detroit, although Belichick downplayed that because neither of those players has the resume of Collins, who can do a lot of things on the football field.
“I don’t think that is part of the decision,” Belichick said of the others in line for potentially increased playing time. “It will be impacted by it, but I don’t think what it is about. This is just the player and his situation, the team, and the team’s situation, and what’s best.’’
The defense as a whole hasn’t been all that impressive for the Pats this season but New England is 7-1 at the midway point and cruising toward another AFC East title.
Upsetting the apple cart may not seem like the best idea to most but Belichick has garnered his reputation over the years by usually being a step or two ahead of the rest of the crowd and in his mind, the Patriots defense was just not fast enough with Collins, Dont’a Hightower, and Rob Ninkovich on the field at the same time.
Forget reputation, with Collins defined as the one not buying in while also searching for $11 million a year and significant guaranteed money come 2017, he was the natural one to go.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America