Collins officially agreed to a contract with the Patriots on Wednesday, Jim McBride of The Boston Globe reports. The terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Collins will rejoin the Patriots for at least the 2019 season. The 29-year-old is expected to be present for on-field work as soon as Thursday in preparation for what could be a heavy workload as an off-ball linebacker for a defense that coach Bill Belichick is expected to coordinate in 2019. Collins averaged over seven tackles per game in his prior three seasons with the Patriots from 2014 to 2016, which would prorate to 116 tackles over a 16-game slate.
Collins has drawn interest from the Patriots in free agency, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. Collins has taken his time fielding contract offers since being released by Cleveland on March 6 and is one of the most accomplished defensive players remaining on the open market. The Patriots' interest in Collins makes sense, given that they have familiarity with the linebacker after selecting him with a second-round pick in 2013 before trading him to the Cleveland in 2016. Collins' potential return to New England would significantly beef up a linebacking corps currently headed by Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy.
Collins was released by the Browns on Wednesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports. Collins was on the trade block but Cleveland couldn't find any takers. His release provides the Browns with roughly $9 million in cap relief this offseason as the team prepares for the start of free agency March 13. The 29-year-old logged 104 tackles and four sacks in 16 games for the Browns last season and should have little trouble garnering free-agent interest from teams looking for help at outside linebacker.
The Browns are expected to either trade or release Collins, or restructure his contract, Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. GM John Dorsey said at the NFL Combine that Collins had "some inconsistencies" last season and made clear that the 29-year-old likely will need to consider a pay cut from his $10.5 million base salary in 2019 in order to remain in Cleveland. Collins led the Browns with 104 tackles last season and realistically could fetch a solid trade market if his contract were reworked.
Collins notched six solo tackles and a sack in Sunday's 17-16 win over the Broncos. Collins' third sack of the year gives him his highest total in four seasons. His 92 tackles are also his highest mark since that same 2015 season in New England. The 28-year-old will try to break triple digits for just the second time in his career at home Week 16 against Cincinnati.
|3||09/22||New York Jets||13|
|6||10/11||New York Giants||28|
|7||10/22||@New York Jets||13|
|14||12/08||Kansas City Chiefs||4|