Message Received: Collins Sent Packing to Cleveland

Nobody is bigger than the team. Do your job and the rest will take care of itself. 

These are just a few of the lessons that Patriots coach Bill Belichick instills into his 53-man roster every single day. Belichick has been building his program in Foxboro since he arrived. And he is not going to ruin his system for one player. Players are expected to do as they are told on the field, and they are to respect the organization off the field. Every now and then, a player comes along and tries to defy the odds and buck the trend of Bill's philosophy. This time, it was star linebacker Jamie Collins. He is not the first one to be sent packing in his prime, and he probably won't be the last. Let's take a look back at a few of the "questionable" moves made by Bill, shall we?

Dominque Easley, the 2014 first rounder for New England, was cut in the spring of 2016. His release was confusing at the time, as he had shown some serious upside during his first couple of seasons. However, when it was reported that Easley did not gel with the locker room and struggled with the Patriot way, few members of the media and fan base questioned the decision by Belichick. Easley, now with the Los Angeles Rams, has time to figure it all out but the clock is ticking. 

Logan Mankins was traded out of the blue right before the 2014 season started. Once thought to be a Patriot lifer, Mankins was whisked away in late August on a plane to Tampa Bay after he would not take a salary cut. His career in the NFL would never be the same and he ended up retiring in the spring of 2016. It did not matter to the front office that the offensive line would be weaker in the short term, because Mankins put himself in front of the team. Once a player shows his (selfish) cards, he is usually moved out of town pretty quickly. 

Randy Moss, a Hall of Fame wide receiver, could not escape the team mentality that is in place in Foxboro. A larger than life personality to go with his immense talent, his antics behind the scenes became too much for Patriots brass to handle. Much like the Mankins and Collins situations, money was a major factor in the decision to move on. It seems as if conducting contract negotiations with New England is like walking on egg shells, but that is the price you pay for success in the NFL. If Bill let's his guard down for any one player, his whole body of work is thrown out the window. Richard Seymour and Lawyer Milloy were others who exited New England rather controversially.

Back to Jamie Collins, it shows us that he is just another player in a long line of athletes who could not handle what it meant to play for New England. While they cannot always be faulted for asking for more money, there comes a time where a player may over value themselves a bit too much. The reports say that New England offered Collins 11 million dollars per year. Collins reportedly asked for "Von Miller type money", which is about 19 million per season. That type of demand is nearly impossible to fulfill for the Pats, who still need to extend impending free agents Jabaal Sheard, Malcolm Butler and Dont'a Hightower. Everyone knew they could not keep them all, so Belichick moved on from two that he knew he could live without in Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins. By no means is Jamie Collins a bad football player. In fact, he is a top 10 linebacker in the NFL today. If there was one knock on his game before this trade, it was his inconsistency from play to play. Sometimes he displayed freakish athletic ability, and other times he was getting burned by a tight end. For someone asking for top of the line money, he needed to display his talent just a bit more. Jamie Collins is a player that most coaches would love to have on their teams, as he is versatile in his linebacker position. He could drop into coverage and rush the passer, something not always seen in the league. When it came down to it, Bill had to make a decision on his linebacker before the NFL trade deadline, slated for 4pm on November 1st. If he wanted to get any value at all, he needed to pull the trigger, and so he did. If Jamie Collins asked for too much money, if he checked out on playing within the system and "freelanced", meaning he did what he felt was best instead of listening to his coaches, then we all should have seen this coming. It hurts right now because he is in his prime, but this move is not one that devastates the Patriots and takes them out of contention. Learn the system, respect the system, and do your job. If you do that, you won't be on a plane to Cleveland to play for a winless Browns team. Bill Belichick may come off as cold and heartless, but the guy is just trying to win football games in the National Football League, something he has done well year in and year out. 

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As for the replacements among the linebacking group, expect Elandon Roberts to take the bulk of the snaps in the coming weeks. The rookie has impressed in his limited action, but the potential for stopping the run is certainly there. Rotating in will be Barkevious Mingo and Kyle Van Noy, both acquired this season from the Browns and Lions respectively. Van Noy was a former second round pick of the Lions where his career was stuck in the mud. Perhaps the Patriot staff can kickstart his engine and give him a boost. With the drafting of Roberts and acquisitions of Mingo and Van Noy, maybe we should have seen it coming. If there is anything Bill has taught us over the last 16 seasons, it is that we should not get too comfortable with the players in the Patriots uniforms. To win in the NFL you have to be ahead of the curve, not behind it. Bill has proven time and time again that he has control over his football operation, and there is no reason to believe he is wrong about this move either. Even if Collins shines in Cleveland, they are years away from playoff contention. So even when Bill 'loses' a trade he wins.

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In Bill We Trust.