Felger: Final thoughts on Collins trade - in Bill we trust…most of the time

Felger: Final thoughts on Collins trade - in Bill we trust…most of the time

Final thoughts on the Jamie Collins trade:

—I’ve had a hard time being overly critical of the deal because, frankly, I’m a little gun shy. Bill Belichick’s batting average with these kind of moves is pretty good, and after bemoaning the loss of Darrelle Revis last year and once again getting egg on my face, I’m a little reluctant to climb back on the soap box.
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Please note, contrary to popular myth, Belichick’s track record with these controversial moves isn’t perfect. The Deion Branch trade hurt the Pats’ Super Bowl chances in 2006; the Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour moves in 2009 helped destroy his locker room; and, hard as it is to believe, Adam Vinatieri is still better than Stephen Gostkowski 11 years after his departure. Not everyone Belichick dumps turns to mush. Most recently,  Aquib Talib has been outstanding in Denver and Chandler Jones is having a good year in Arizona. 

But, on balance, Belichick gets these moves right. We all know it.

—That said, I really find it hard to believe this will make them better on the field. Belichick will attempt to replace a horse (Collins) with a group of ponies (Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy and Barkevious Mingo) and that rarely works. 

To me, the real impetus here has to be off the field, where Belichick (rightly) puts a heavy emphasis on culture. You’re either with the program or you’re not, and Belichick knows too much of the latter destroys your team. Collins wanted to get paid, yet he was struggling on the field and his playing time was starting to reflect it. It's hard to make money on the bench. It wasn’t going to end well, and if other players were dragged down by the popular Collins, then no way was Belichick going to let that go any further. That’s the reason to make the deal; not because Roberts had a good October.

— Finally, the worst part of the story is how Belichick has allowed a mouthpiece like Mike Lombardi to disparage Collins on the way out the door and then not make it clear that Lombardi, who worked for the organization the previous two years, does not speak for the team. Instead, Belichick said Wednesday that Lombardi is one of the smartest people he knows in football, which came across as a tacit co-sign of a smear campaign.

How unnecessary. A huge majority of Patriots fans and media are going to agree with Belichick’s personnel decisions, no matter how controversial. As mentioned above, he’s earned that deference. Why rip the player on the way out the door? 

Again, Belichick didn’t say the words himself and it’s highly doubtful he put the call out to Lombardi. But to not separate himself at least a little from Lombardi’s comments is a bad look. Unless, of course, he agrees with Lombardi and has no problem getting that analysis out there.

In which case, if you want us to know the deal with Collins, then why don’t you do it yourself?
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Patriots release Shea McClellin

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Patriots release Shea McClellin

Shea McClellin will be blocking kicks for somebody else next season. 

The Patriots announced Monday they've released the veteran linebacker, ending his tenure with the team after two seasons.  ESPN's Field Yates broke the news.

The Pats signed McClellin to a three-year deal prior to the 2016 season, but that was the only season in which he played for the team. McClellin missed all of last season due to injury. Prior to coming to New England, McClellin played four seasons with the Bears, who chose him 19th overall in 2012. 

McClellin's biggest contribution with the Pats came when he blocked a Justin Tucker kick in Week 14 of the 2016 season against the Ravens.

Pinning down the best lesson Vince Wilfork could teach Danny Shelton

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Pinning down the best lesson Vince Wilfork could teach Danny Shelton

When the Patriots traded for Danny Shelton earlier this offseason, sending a 2019 third-rounder to Cleveland in exchange for the defensive tackle, they traded for a player who was already being mentored by one of their own. 

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Shelton explained that one of his agents put him in touch with former Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork so that Shelton could pick up some tips from one of the best defensive tackles in football of the past 15 years. 

"For me, he’s someone that I still look up to even when he was with the Texans," Shelton said. "I got the opportunity to reach out to him and kind of pick his brain and just learn a couple of tips from him. He’s been really responsive. He’s been a guy that has been really helpful this offseason and I’m looking forward to reaching out more and learning some more from him."

When Shelton was coming out of the University of Washington in 2015,'s Lance Zierlein's "NFL comparison" was Wilfork. Both carried similar builds -- Shelton is now listed at 335 pounds -- and both were viewed as surprisingly good athletes for their body types. Shelton was also viewed as the top two-gapping tackle in the draft that year, which is exactly what the Patriots ask their interior linemen to do. 

Shelton has made good on those projections over the last couple of years. Last season, he was a key part of a Browns defense that ranked fourth against the run by Football Outsiders in terms of DVOA. In 2016, Shelton was ranked by Pro Football Focus as its eighth-best interior lineman against the run. Per PFF, he was second that year -- behind only Damon Harrison -- in terms of the number of run stops he recorded from the interior.

It's clear that Shelton, the No. 12 overall pick three years ago, understands what his strengths are. 

"Honestly, I’m just going to go with whatever Coach [Bill Belichick] wants me to do," Shelton said. "My best feature is stopping the run, so if he wants me to play at a specific position I’ll do it, and I’ll make sure I do my job for the team’s success."

So how can Wilfork help? If he has any tips on how to be a consistent player from the inside in Belichick's system, that could go a long way. Over the course of Wilfork's 13-year career, few defensive tackles were as effective from week to week and year to year. Wilfork played at least 830 snaps in four of his last five seasons with the Patriots (he was injured in 2013), and even during his two seasons with the Texans, he averaged about 600 snaps per year. He made five Pro Bowls with the Patriots and was named a First or Second-Team All-Pro four times.

In what form might Wilfork's advice on consistency be delivered? Would it be nutritional, which was an aspect of his preparation he embraced later in his career? Would it be technique-based? Would it be simply how to take the coaching dispensed inside the walls of Gillette Stadium? 

Shelton, who missed two games last season and played in 469 snaps, doesn't have a long-term contract with the Patriots to be able to prove his worth over multiple years the way Wilfork did. And he may not be asked to take on the myriad roles Wilfork was during his time under Belichick. But if Shelton can pick up some advice from Wilfork on how to stay on the field and how to help the Patriots win on first and second downs, that might make him the team's most valuable offseason addition. 

New England finished the season 20th in rush yards allowed per game, and they were 31st in yards per attempt allowed. In the Super Bowl, with run-stuffing defensive tackle Alan Branch a healthy scratch, the Patriots allowed 6.1 yards per carry to the Eagles on their way to 164 yards rushing. 

Shelton is in the final year of his rookie contract and scheduled to make $2.03 million this season. The Patriots may not be willing to pick up his hefty $11.7 million fifth-year option for 2019, but if he can continue his upward trajectory then maybe the Patriots will work to extend him before the end of the year. 

How Wilfork impacts that trajectory, if at all, remains to be seen. But he's certainly not a bad guy for Shelton to have in his corner as the 24-year-old embarks on life with the Patriots.