By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Jamie Collins is hitting the open market for the first time in his career. The Cleveland Browns are releasing the former Patriots linebacker after two-plus seasons. Collins himself broke the news on Twitter before ESPN’s Adam Schefter and others made it official.
In one of Bill Belichick’s more shocking personnel moves in his Patriots tenure, the head coach shipped Collins to the Browns for a compensatory third-round draft pick halfway through the 2016 season. The perception of Collins went from an athletic, disruptive cornerstone of the defense to a game of “20 Questions” about what went wrong.
Rumors swirled that Collins had been “freelancing” too much. Whatever his issue was, Collins brought a lot to the defense but not consistency. The thrilling highs equaled the baffling lows. At times Collins looked like one of the most dynamic linebackers in the NFL, like when he racked up 14 tackles, and interception, and a pass breakup in Week 3 of 2016 against the Texans. Other times, he disappeared entirely.
In 30 games with the Browns, Collins made 204 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, 7 sacks, and 14 quarterback hits.
While Collins wasn’t a disaster in Cleveland, he certainly wasn’t worth the $10 million and $12 million he was due in each of the next two seasons. That’s why the Browns reportedly tried to trade him but couldn’t find a willing partner.
Collins’ release will invite all kinds of speculation about a potential return to New England. I wouldn’t completely rule it out. There’s a precedent for former Patriots returning to play again for Bill Belichick after he moved on from them. Receiver Deion Branch, who was traded just after the start of the 2006 season before returning in 2013, is a notable example. Safety Patrick Chung is still in his second stint with the Patriots after playing the 2013 season with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Collins could also be useful as a coverage linebacker that would add speed and athleticism to that group – if he got with the program. Did his time in Cleveland enlighten him? Could he long for a return to the glory he experienced as a Super Bowl champion in 2014?
A return shouldn’t be considered probable. But it’s certainly possible.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.