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LB Jamie Collins released by Browns, could he return to Patriots?

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The Browns announced on Wednesday that they have released Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins.

Collins spent the last two-plus seasons with the team after being shipped from New England to Cleveland at the trade deadline in 2016 in exchange for a third-round pick (103rd).

Having originally entered the league as a second-round pick out of Southern Mississippi in 2013, Collins started 41 of the 50 games he played in New England over three-plus seasons.

In his last two-plus years with the Browns Collins started all 30 games he played in, leading Cleveland with 104 tackles in 16 starts this past fall when he also had four sacks, seven QB hits, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

After arriving via trade in Cleveland, Collins signed a four-year contract worth $50 million with a reported $26.4 million guaranteed. He had been set to earn a salary of $10 million in 2019.

Cleveland reportedly attempted to trade Collins both at last season’s deadline and this offseason before finally deciding to simply release the high-paid defender.

When Collins was traded out of New England on Halloween 2016, there were varying reports regarding the reason for his departure. Some claimed it came from his eroding abilities/value on the field and so-called free-lancing ways as he approached the allure of free agency.

Now that he’s made significant money elsewhere and hits the open market at the age of 29, the question will be whether the Patriots might have interest in bringing back the athletic linebacker. There is no question that Collins has unique ability as a versatile defender. In his Pro Bowl season in New England in 2015 he had 5.5 sacks as well as five forced fumbles, offering value again the run, as a pass rusher and in coverage.

The Patriots actually have decent depth at linebacker right now. The unit is led by veterans Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts. A pair of rookies from last year’s draft class, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Christian Sam, finished last season on injured reserve. Bentley not only earned a roster spot as a fifth-round rookie but actually started two of the first three games of last season before being lost to injury.

“We want to thank Jamie for his contributions to the Cleveland Browns,” Browns GM John Dorsey said of Collins in a statement. “These types of decisions are never easy. Jamie is a respected veteran player in this league and we wish him the best as he continues his career.”

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