The trade deadline is still 24 hours away but that didn't stop Bill Belichick from making a major move. The Patriots have dealt Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland for third-round compensatory pick in next year's draft.
Collins was set to hit free agency at the end of the season and there has been almost no talk regarding a possible extension. Various reports indicated the Patriots were looking to re-sign him at roughly $11 million per year, but Collins' camp wasn't interested. With next year's franchise tag for linebackers set to reach about $15 million, Collins evidently was intent on hitting the market. Schefter added that Collins was looking for "Von Miller money," which is something in the neighborhood of six year and $114.5 million.
The stunning move leaves a void at linebacker, especially considering the injury history of Dont'a Hightower, who already missed two games this season with a knee injury. Hightower is probably the more consistent player of the two, but Collins has the ability to dominate a game at times and his presence will be missed.
If the Patriots opted to play out the string with Collins and lost him to free agency, it's likely that he would have garnered a third-round compensatory pick in 2018, so it's hard to understand why the urgency to make such a deal with the team riding high atop the league at 7-1.
The move makes Sunday's starting lineup a bit more understandable as the Patriots opened with rookie Elandon Roberts next to Hightower and inserted Collins sporadically. He played only 48 snaps (62 percent) against Buffalo, which is below his normal workload when healthy.
Clearly the Patriots didn't believe they would be able to re-sign him, but it's hard to imagine why they chose not to wait it out with the team seemingly headed toward another late-January playoff run.