Duron Harmon: Jamie Collins' 2016 trade was 'eye-opening experience'

Duron Harmon: Jamie Collins' 2016 trade was 'eye-opening experience'

FOXBORO – In Bill Belichick’s first decade with the Patriots, jaw-dropping personnel decisions – additions and subtractions both – became routine.

I’m talking about those from-the-rafters moves like shipping out Lawyer Milloy or Richard Seymour or bringing aboard Corey Dillon or Randy Moss.

But this decade it was a little quieter. Until Halloween of 2016. That’s when Jamie Collins was traded to the Cleveland Browns. Duron Harmon said Thursday the move was an NFL epiphany for him.

“He was a Pro Bowler and a second-team All-Pro the year before,” Harmon said after one of the Patriots' OTA workouts. "Any time that happens you’re shocked because it’s your friend. I think that was probably one of the first real eye-opening experiences where I realized this is a business. We came in together, we’re great friends and he’s here one moment and the next moment he’s all the way in Cleveland."

The Collins trade illustrated how time in a Patriots uniform can be fleeting. But what happened post-trade was the real lesson. Individually, Patriots players could hate the deal down to a man. But as a team, they pocketed the indignation and went about proving Belichick right even if they thought he was wrong. They improved.

Now Collins is back and Harmon – a close friend – is happy for that.

“Me and Jamie came in together (in the 2013 draft class),” said Harmon.  “We’re friends. When he went to Cleveland we stayed in contact and we kept talking. The relationship didn’t break. We all know, he’s a tremendous football player. Athletic ability through the roof and he’s just about to come in here, do what he do and earn his spot wherever it is. Play hard and help us try to win football games.”

Even if the trade to Cleveland felt like an exile, Collins did get the payday he hoped for: a four-year, $50 million deal that he realized $27 million of. As Harmon tells it, there is no hesitancy on Collins' part about coming back.

“He’s excited to be back, so that’s always good when the excitement is there,” he said. “I’m really just looking forward to seeing him out there again, seeing him with us, building that chemistry and doing everything we can to make sure we got the best defense come the first game.”

With Collins in the mix, the Patriots are better now than they were on Tuesday. Everybody's a little bit older. But they're also a little bit wiser.

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

It's simple, really. If the Patriots are going to avoid staying home again after the Wild Card Round of the playoffs next season and seasons to come, they've got to get younger.

And to get younger, they've got to be more successful in the draft.

In the latest edition of Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast, Curran and Phil Perry focus on the last time New England was sent home this early in the playoffs a decade ago and if there can be lessons learned from that roster reboot in 2010. 

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The biggest issue confronting the Pats this time around is their age, which averages 31.6 years old (a 42-year-old quarterback skews that a little, of course). By comparison, the Super Bowl 54 opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs (26.8) and the San Francisco 49ers (26.6) are considerably younger.

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The age factor is why, as Perry pointed out, "the pressure is on for them to hit not only in this 2020 draft, where they do have 12 picks, they have no second-round pick, but 12 shots at the dartboard. Last year, they had 10 [picks] and nine guys are still with the team.

"It's clear they have told themselves, 'We need to get younger. We need to start hitting here if we want to sustain this success.' The draft is the lifeblood of any team."

The 2018 team and its victory in the Super Bowl over the Rams last February worked to hide some of those flaws from recent low-yield draft classes.

"They had a great quarterback when they needed him. They had a Hall of Fame quarterback when they needed him. The defense looked tremendous we know how that story played out," Perry said. 

What kind of draft yield are we talking about to fuel the next generation of Patriots' success?

Curran goes on to rattle off the names from 2008-2012 drafts (Mayo, Slater, Edelman, Vollmer, Butler, Chung, Gronkowski, McCourty) that fueled the second half of the Pats dynasty.

"I have upwards of 30 names from 2008 to 2012 who were contributing players to the Patriots. I'm not even talking a little contributing, but massive contributing...," Curran said.  

There's also a discussion of how the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady will impact the 2020 draft strategy. Listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.


That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

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That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

The Patriots may have been missing from the NFL's Championship Sunday, but that didn't stop them from being mentioned and having their former personnel play prominent roles in the AFC and NFC Championship Games.

Whether it was former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel coaching the Tennessee Titans against the Kansas City Chiefs or former New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo helping the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers to reach Super Bowl 54, the Patriots continue to be a talked-about team. 

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster and Cerrone Battle discussed how the Pats still loomed over the games on Sunday.

"You can not say anything bad about the Patriots because we are always constantly producing talent," Foster said. "I think this is the perfect testament to Bill Belichick."

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Battle said it speaks to the dominance of the Patriots the past two decades that connections to their former players and staff are now all over the league.

"That's what happens when you win," Battle said. "When you win, everybody wants a piece. They want your waterboy. Look at the new head coach of the Giants [Joe Judge, the former Patriots special teams and receivers coach]?... When you're good for 20 years eventually you're going to have your roots all over the league. After years and years of success, I'm not shocked by it."

Irvin and Foster said instead of lamenting a rare NFL Final Four without New England, Pats fans should be grateful.

"I wish Patriot Nation would grow up," Irvin said. "By that I mean I'm tired of seeing on social media people just crying and complaining, 'Oh it's boring without the Patriots.' We've had almost two decades of excellence. We're not there. Get over it."

Said Foster, "I was grateful more than anything. Filled with gratitude. We may never see a run like this again."

In his "Hot Takes and Cold Cuts" segment, Battle says those crowning the Super Bowl 54 opponents as the next dynasties might want to pump the brakes a little. 

"First thing I heard [after the games] is, 'Kansas City they're gonna be around for years and San Francisco they're gonna be around for a long time. They're gonna be contenders forever,' " Battle said. "That was the story all day. 'What is anybody gonna do about these teams next year?' What are they gonna do next year? Not even worry about them. Why? Because this is the Not For Long League. The NFL. Every year, the teams that were hot the year before are never guaranteed to be hot the year after that. Unless you're the Patriots."

The crew also gives their reactions to the new Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary. It's all in this week's "That 617 Life" podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast network. Click here to listen and subscribe.