Here's why the Browns' rationale for Jamie Collins trade doesn't make sense
Did Cleveland really give up a third-round pick for a rental player?
There is some bewildering chatter in the scouting community coming out of the Browns organization in the aftermath of the blockbuster trade for linebacker Jamie Collins. Specifically, the idea that Collins might end up being more of a rental in Cleveland than a sure-fire part of their long-term future, even after trading what will likely amount to a 2017 third-round pick for him.
It's a line of thinking going around within the Browns building and outside of the building, and while logic would seem to dictate this can't possibly be an eventuality for the Browns, well, this is the Browns, so you never know. If the Browns get a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, it goes to the Pats. And it's very much expected that the Browns will get that pick after letting Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz walk in free agency. As for Collins, if he is to seek more money in free agency (his deal expires after the season) than Cleveland thinks he's worth, then the Browns are telling people they could just let him go and recoup that third round pick in the 2018 draft, as a comp pick for Collins departing.
But that's baffling to me on several levels.
First of all, the Browns are 0-8 and have a legit shot to go 0-16. The owner, Jimmy Haslam, has done nothing but lose football games and fire people early and often, sometimes indiscriminately. It would be folly for anyone to be sitting around Berea, Ohio, crunching numbers and firing up those super computers thinking that 2017 is guaranteed to them. And the 2018 draft? Sashi Brown and the Analytics All-Stars are still going to be kicking out the jams in 2018? That's bold -- and, for many Browns fans, probably petrifying.
Personally, I think if nothing else the Browns bite the bullet and franchise Collins at a cost of around $15M. They have more cap space than they could possibly hope to spend in three offseasons, much less just one, and they have needs all over the roster. They've also spent less actual cash on payroll than most of the teams in the NFL, too. So there would be no excuse not to sign a 27-year old linebacker who has played at a Pro Bowl level in the past.
"Why not just keep the pick, and just sign the player in March? Is that worth a third-round pick? Did they think someone else was going to make this trade if they didn't?"-- An NFL scout on the Collins trade
But, it's also somewhat shocking that the Browns didn't have at least some groundwork for a contract in line when they made this trade. Multiple sources said, however, that they hadn't had any significant talks at all with Bus Cook, agent for Collins, at the time of the trade, and there isn't anything expected to come together quickly, if at all. The Browns regime's lack of strong relationships in the agent community is well documented.
What is clear is that Collins has more leverage than ever after a team just gave up a second-day pick for him, when the Browns could've just waited eight more weeks and he would've been an impending free agent who they could have signed without parting with a draft pick.
"They haven't won a game and they might not win a game, with or without Collins," said one NFL general manager. "So I get that they can evaluate Collins in their system now, and they have the ability to franchise him ... but why not just keep the pick, and just sign the player in March? Is that worth a third-round pick? Did they think someone else was going to make this trade if they didn't?"
The Browns might counter that they always have to over-spend like crazy to land free agents since the owner is always firing people and the team is perpetually rebuilding. To which I'd counter, don't think for a second you're going to get any sort of hometown discount from Collins now as he counts the days until his pay day, or franchise tag. Regardless, I was shocked by the number of people I spoke to around the league, many of whom have chatted with Browns football people, who are convinced that if Collins doesn't wow them they'll just let him walk.
"Their scouts are already talking like, 'If we don't re-sign him, we'll get a supplemental third in 2018,'" one rival exec said. "That tells me the owner still might not be spending any money and they might not sign any UFAs (unrestricted free agents) again. What they're saying internally is that if we don't re-sign him we'll get the pick back the next year."
Again, I have to think they either sign him long-term or franchise him. Guess we'll all find out this spring. But for anyone in that franchise -- which is 1-18 since last Oct. 12 and 3-26 since Thanksgiving of 2014 -- to even be thinking about 2018 compensatory picks sort of boggles my mind. Tomorrow is not guaranteed in this league. With Haslam, the next hour isn't.
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