Cleveland’s front office is keeping impending free agent Jamie Collins off the open market.
The Browns have agreed to a four-year contract with Collins, the team announced. Collins’ new deal is worth $50 million ($26 million in guarantees), a contract that eclipses the per-year salary of Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly ($12.36 million), NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the process. The two sides have worked on hammering out the specifics of the deal since it was first reported Thursday.
Collins was acquired from the Patriots in exchange for a compensatory draft pick, stunning the football world at the trade deadline. Immediately featured as an every-down linebacker, Collins racked up 69 tackles and two sacks in eight games with Cleveland.
The Pats had offered Collins in excess of $10 million annually, Rapoport reported in late October, while Collins placed his own value among the highest-paid linebackers in the league.
Regardless of the price tag, keeping Collins in-house makes sense for an organization with a surfeit of salary-cap space and precious few Pro Bowl-caliber talents on the roster. He’s a more natural fit in new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ 4-3 scheme after moonlighting at outside linebacker in Ray Horton’s 3-4 system in the season’s final two months.
Although Collins was accused of freelancing too much in New England, at least one former teammate viewed him as the defense’s best player. Williams figures to build his defense around linebackers Collins and Christian Kirksey, defensive tackle Danny Shelton and cornerback Jamar Taylor.