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Sep 12, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions outside linebacker Jamie Collins (8) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Late last week, it was reported the Lions were exploring trades for former Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins. Apparently unable to find one, they’ve now released the 31-year-old linebacker, as first reported by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

The Patriots were floated as a potential landing spot for Collins when the trade rumors first surfaced. However, his contract – a three-year, $30 million deal including three voided years he signed before the 2020 season – made a deal seemingly unrealistic.

Now that Collins has been released, his cap hit will be minimal wherever he signs. With that road block out of the way, New England should be able to pursue him as a free agent.

Last week, the Patriots’ linebacker depth was stretched thin as Josh Uche was inactive due to a back injury and Ja’Whaun Bentley suffered an injury during the game. That, plus selective use of Dont’a Hightower, showed a potential need at the position.

So will the Patriots be interested in bringing Collins back for his third stint with the team? According to Evan Lazar of CLNS Media, “There was already some communication with the Lions [prior to the release] on what they were going to do with Jamie Collins…the door is definitely still open from the New England side.”

As for Collins, returning to New England makes sense if he wants to reset his value and sign another big contract in free agency this spring. No team has been able to maximize Collins’ ability quite like the Patriots – his career PFF grade is 90 in New England, and 56 in his time with the Browns and Lions.

Collins was originally drafted by the Patriots in 2013, then traded to Cleveland in 2016. After his release from the Browns in the spring of 2019, Collins returned to New England where he played well enough to earn his most recent deal with the Lions.

The Patriots do currently have an open roster spot – they’ve been at 52 players since placing Malcolm Perry on IR before Week 1. Perry and N’Keal Harry are both eligible to return this week, so there could be some roster juggling on the way.

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Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.