Why would the AFC’s overwhelming Super Bowl favorite trade its best defensive playmaker at midseason?
As it turns out, we aren’t alone in scratching our heads over the New England Patriots‘ latest blockbuster. Collins’ former teammates are still trying to process the loss of a 2015 second-team All-Pro selection.
“Jamie is a huge piece of our defense, arguably our best defensive player,” Pro Bowl safety Devin McCourty said in an interview with CSN New England. “So there’s gonna be a lot of changes that come from this move and I think as players that has to be our focus — how do we fix things and get things going in a positive direction.”
To hear McCourty tell it, Patriots players were blindsided by the move.
“When you get a guy like Jamie who was here for four years, on the team, very productive player,” McCourty explained, “to lose him is a bit shocking I think to everyone on the team.”
Factoring in Belichick’s history of flipping high-priced veterans and the emergence of sixth-round rookie Elandon Roberts as a playmaking linebacker in his own right, it’s still hard to believe Collins was expendable at the price of a third-round compensatory pick.
The Patriots had offered Collins in excess of $10 million annually, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday, but the impending free agent places his own value among the highest-paid linebackers in the league.
Former Patriots executive (and Belichick confidant) Michael Lombardi tweeted Monday that Collins was guilty of freelancing too much on defense, in essence going off of the coaches’ script during games.
That approach apparently didn’t sit well with a head coach whose football credo is “Do your job.”
Lombardi suggests the Collins trade was Belichick’s wake-up call, sending a message to the locker room that the defense isn’t playing well enough against a string of mediocre quarterbacks.
Belichick is certainly not infallible, but he has earned the equivalent of a doctoral degree in team building. He understands “the team” is a temperamental organism that must be nurtured to grow stronger throughout the season.
If that means losing a Randy Moss or Jamie Collins in the process, Belichick is willing to make the sacrifice with a greater goal in mind.