Patriots could get lucky again by scooping up former veteran in free agency

Sep 12, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions outside linebacker Jamie Collins (8) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 12, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions outside linebacker Jamie Collins (8) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

The term “system player” is often applied to quarterback and skill position players, but former New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins almost certainly fits that designation, too.

Bill Belichick has a thing for linebackers that can cover and defend the run with equal degrees of skill, and his scheme has helped Collins thrive over the years.

When Matt Patricia was named head coach of the Detroit Lions, he tried to run the exact same plays on defense with many of the exact same players, and he fell on his face. In a last-ditch effort to save his behind in Detroit (which failed), Patricia brought Collins in.

But rookie head coach Dan Campbell didn’t mesh with Collins, and now…it’s over.

Considering that the Lions were looking to trade Collins and had already parted ways with underperforming second-round pick Jahlani Tavai (who is in New England now), it’s clear defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has become fed up with what he was given. Naturally, Detroit’s latest move could help Collins return to the Patriots for pennies on the dollar.

Collins was released after the Lions were unable to trade him. Assuming that Collins could take a veteran minimum contract in the name of finding either comfort or a shot at a championship, New England might be able to once again reclaim his services as they try to stay alive in the AFC East.

Will Jamie Collins return to the Patriots after Lions release?

When Collins was traded to the Browns, he embarked upon a 2.5-season stint in Cleveland that was rocky at times, as his trademark coverage ability was completely sucked away. What did he do when he returned to New England? Set his new personal record for sacks in a season.

Collins totaled 100 tackles in 14 games last year with the Lions, but tackles can be a deceiving stat, as he didn’t look nearly as fearsome. After some roller-coaster play this year, Campbell saw fit to ditch the veteran and roll with the young guys.

Altogether, Collins got a $20 million bag from the Lions for 16 games. Ouch.

Between Matt Judon playing marvelously in his first few games with the Pats and Kyle Van Noy returning to the fold after failing in Miami in the exact same fashion as Collins, the Patriots have plenty of big names on their defensive front. Belichick has never been one to turn down the chance to add a talented player, especially one with familiarity.

If Collins returns, expect him to hold down the fort until Bentley returns, making plays in the same Belichick defense that helped him become a Pro Bowler. He might be a system linebacker, but the New England system is still around, so why not bring him back?