Curran: The trade of Collins is a thought(s)-provoking move

Curran: The trade of Collins is a thought(s)-provoking move

Some quick-hit thoughts on the Jamie Collins deal . . . 
At the end of the year, Jamie Collins is going to be a free agent and in line for a contract in the $50 million range, given his physical prowess and what he's put on tape when he's been at his best for a very good team. In addition, Dont'a Hightower will also be a free agent, and cornerback Malcolm Butler -- a restricted free agent – is making the minimum right now and needs a bump badly. Additionally, the Patriots have other free agents-to-be in Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon and Jabaal Sheard. They already shipped Chandler Jones out of town for what turned out to be draft-pick compensation. Now they’ve sent Collins away for a third-round pick. Can’t pay 'em all. That’s the nuts-and-bolts "why" of it, though, if they'd wanted to, the Pats certainly could have done enough financial gymnastics to make it work. So why didn’t they? 
-- Pats ship Collins to Cleveland
-- Lombardi: This was a long time coming
-- Chandler Jones says 'Sheesh,' but Pats fan Nerlens Noel thinks #Westillgravy
-- Did Belichick hint at trade Monday morning?

A second-round pick in 2012, Collins is a breathtaking athlete. His pick against Houston this season -- his best game of the year and really the only one where he seemed to play to his All-Pro potential -- was a combination of the smarts, instincts and physical skills with the ball and in covering space. But aside from that game, Collins had been just kinda …. out there in a lot of games. He drew a key hold last week against Pittsburgh that wiped out a Steelers touchdown, but aside from that he’s not impacting things. Often, that’s related to scheme. The Patriots have been playing passively on defense, not trying to force opponent mistakes as much as merely waiting for them. I’ve stated weekly that the work of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has been underwhelming this year and Buffalo -- a team bereft of passing-game threats -- still carved up New England on the ground. Collins takes the fall, a message gets sent, and a player who Bill Belichick confidante Mike Lombardi intimates was freelancing all season is excised from the roster. Personally, I thought Collins’ play had leveled off and -- for a player who I believed was tracking to becoming an All-Pro -- he made some awful plays in big moments (two TDs for Denver tight end Owen Daniels in last year’s AFC Championship Game being an example). I’m still stunned he was dealt because I never would have believed the situation dire. But it apparently was. 
At the very least, Belichick now has his team’s attention heading into the bye week. The trade of Collins -- like those of Lawyer Milloy, Deion Branch, Richard Seymour and Logan Mankins -- is an in-season move that makes your chin hit your sternum initially. Then you get to thinking that if Belichick's mantra is "Doing what’s best for the football team . . . " how does this satisfy that? This very talented part being elsewhere may make the whole better in the long run. But how soon? And how much fallout will there be among Collins' teammates? Collins avoided speaking with the media. Ever. But that doesn’t mark anyone as a bad guy in the tight-lipped Patriots locker room. Players and former players I know well -- Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, etc. -- had nothing bad to say about him, and the marveling at Collins' freakish ability was universal. In the short run, guys will have a "Jamie got traded, Chandler got traded, what are we doing here . . . ?" reaction. But Belichick is expert at getting across the message that he'll worry about the personnel moves and the players should just worry about the playing. 

Barkevious Mingo was the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Collins was the 50th in 2012. If you put them next to each other, Collins looks like the guy who’d be taken sixth. He's bigger and stronger than Mingo. Faster? Don’t know. But in Mingo -- who came from the place Collins is headed -- and Kyle Van Noy, surprisingly acquired last week from Detroit, the Patriots now have two guys they can try to meld into one Collins. Meanwhile, they have rookie thumper Elandon Roberts in the middle of the defense. They are going to be more reliant than ever on Hightower, though, and the brilliant but often-injured linebacker will be sorely missed if he goes down and the Pats are left with such untested players at that level. Meanwhile, if the Patriots want to be more aggressive in the second half of the year, they just got rid of their most explosive athlete. 
Not a lot. But I've also believed there’s way too much talent all over this defense for the Patriots to be getting the results they've been getting. First-rounders at every level and Buffalo scores 25? And Pittsburgh's down 14-13 in the third? I've laid more blame on Patricia being slow to adjust and being too passive scheme-wise. But I've also looked at Collins as a major disappointment. I don't think they're better now than they were this morning. But I've been more strident in believing they were making mistakes in years gone by when deals like this happened, and I've been proven wrong. So I've found the best thing to do is render judgment after some games have been played. Believe this, though: Collins won’t be making the Patriots regret this move when the Pats see Cleveland in the playoffs. 

How the compensatory pick formula may impact Patriots free-agent calls

AP Photo

How the compensatory pick formula may impact Patriots free-agent calls

How highly do the Patriots value their mid-round draft picks? We'll find out as the run on NFL free agents continues this week. 

If Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio plan to make any signings from outside the organization, they'll have to factor into that decision what they will be giving up. Money and cap space matter . . . sure. But there is draft capital at stake.  

The Patriots are currently projected to land two third-round compensatory picks in 2019 after losing both Malcolm Butler and Nate Solder in free agency. There's real value there, and the decision-makers at One Patriot Place may be reluctant to give that up. 

Recent Patriots third-round picks include Derek Rivers, Tony Garcia, Joe Thuney, Jacoby Brissett, Vincent Valentine, Geneo Grissom, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan. 


Before we get into how the Patriots might lose those third-round comp picks if they remain active in free-agency, it's worth noting how comp picks are assigned. 

The compensatory-pick formula the league uses has never been published, but we know the basics. It's based on free agents lost and free agents acquired in a given year by a particular team. The level of those players is taken into consideration -- based on salary, playing time and other factors -- and then picks are issued to teams who have lost more (or better) free agents than they acquired. Only free agents whose contracts have expired (not players who've been released) qualify for the compensatory-pick formula.'s Nick Korte is the best in the business when it comes to predicting how many picks teams will land based on their free-agent losses and acquisitions, and he has the Patriots down for two third-rounders in 2019 and nothing else. 

That may sound surprising given the Patriots lost Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola in addition to Butler and Solder, but that's the way the formula broke, according to Korte. The Adrian Clayborn signing (given a sixth-round value by OTC) cancelled out the Amendola loss (sixth-round value). The Matt Tobin signing (seventh-round value) cancelled out the Lewis loss (sixth-round value). And the Jeremy Hill signing (seventh-round value) cancelled out the Johnson Bademosi loss (sixth-round value). 

Why do Tobin and Hill cancel out Amendola and Lewis, despite being lower-value moves? Here's how OTC describes the process. (Free agents who qualify for the comp-pick formula are known as Compensatory Free Agents or CFAs.)

1. A CFA gained by a team cancels out the highest-valued available CFA lost that has the same round valuation of the CFA gained.

2. If there is no available CFA lost in the same round as the CFA gained, the CFA gained will instead cancel out the highest-available CFA lost with a lower round value.

3. A CFA gained will only cancel out a CFA lost with a higher draft order if there are no other CFAs lost available to cancel out. 

That final point is key. An example? The Seahawks recently signed CFA Jaron Brown, a seventh-round value. The only Seahawks "CFAs lost" available to cancel out the move were Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham, both fourth-round values. Even though there's a three-round difference between Brown and Richardson, per Korte's projections, those moves still will cancel each other out. 

With that in mind, the Patriots may want to tread lightly when it comes to signing free agents who will qualify toward the comp-pick formula. They could lose out on the third-rounders they've received for Solder and Butler even if they sign a lower-value free agent.

Players like Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro or Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman would count toward the comp-pick formula. Would their value to the team be such that losing a 2019 third-round pick wouldn't matter to the Patriots? Or would their comp-pick impact hurt their chances of being picked up in New England? My guess would be the latter. 

The good news for the Patriots is that re-signing their own players -- like offensive tackles LaAdrian Waddle and/or Cam Fleming -- doesn't impact the comp-pick setup. Neither does signing players who've been released, meaning the Patriots could theoretically make a splash by signing Ndamukong Suh or Eric Ebron and they'd retain their comp picks.

Given the Patriots made just four draft picks last year, and since comp picks can be traded now (that rule was changed last year), it would come as little surprise if retaining those picks weighed heavily on Belichick and Caserio's decisions as they move through the remainder of the offseason. 


Report: Patriots special teams ace Slater visiting Steelers

Report: Patriots special teams ace Slater visiting Steelers

Patriots seven-time Pro Bowl special teamer Matthew Slater is in Pittsburgh on Saturday making a free-agent visit to the rival Steelers, according to an ESPN's Field Yates.

Slater, who turns 33 in September, has spent the past 10 seasons in a New England. The special teams captain and one of the leaders in the locker room signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract extension in 2016.

The Patriots lost special teamer Johnson Bademosi to the Texans in free agency on Friday but signed special teamers Brandon Bolden and Brandon King just before the free agency period began.

More to come...