The Cleveland Browns made the first stunning move of trade deadline week -- and as a buyer, no less.
Collins played a suspiciously low number of snaps on Sunday against the Bills, providing perhaps the first and only hint that he was on his way out.
The trade was first reported by ESPN.
The 27-year-old second-round pick was nearing the end of his rookie contract and will become a free agent this offseason. Graded by Pro Football Focus as one of the league's most dominant and versatile outside linebackers, Collins was almost surely in for a deal that Belichick wasn't willing to pay for.
In seven games this year, Collins already has 31 tackles, two interceptions, three pass breakups and a sack. He missed a game against the Bengals back in Week 6 with a hip issue.
Already flush with draft picks, the Browns saw this as an opportunity to keep their defense young but also infuse it with professional-grade talent. An all-out youth movement can sometimes be risky, while Collins is already a proven commodity who excels in the NFL's most oft-used passing defenses.
"We are always looking for ways to improve our roster by acquiring talent and the trade deadline sometimes grants you that opportunity," Browns executive Sashi Brown said. "Jamie Collins is a talented, tough, young playmaker that our coaches and personnel staff think can be a great fit for our defense. We feel really good about being able to add him to our team and look forward to getting him into our building and having him work with our coaches."
Of course, the Browns run the risk of acquiring a talent that they do not know how to use properly. As is the case with many Patriots players shipped away, they never find the individual success they attained outside of the scheme. Current Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones and, for at least a little while, former Broncos receiver Wes Welker managed to buck the trend.
Collins played alongside star linebacker Dont'a Hightower, which also could have aided his profile and perception in New England.
"Jamie Collins is a really good football player and we're excited to be able to add a player like him to our team," Browns head coach Hue Jackson said. "He's played at an extremely high level with toughness and playmaking ability for his entire career. We look forward to him being an important piece of our defense. The plan is for him to come in and learn our system quickly so he can make an immediate impact."
Now, we wait for answers. Though the compensatory pick formula is complicated, Belichick could have almost certainly received value close to what he got from the Browns in 2018 if he let Collins walk in free agency. It also would have allowed the defensive-minded coach to keep the Swiss Army Knife linebacker on his bench if he was being phased out of the scheme.
Instead, Collins gets a new and radically unexpected beginning.
With his projected value soaring above the $50 million mark, it will be interesting to see how quickly the Browns move on a new deal for Collins or if they opt to have a trial run first. Collins will join a young linebacking corps currently staffed by 2016 second-round pick Emmanuel Ogbah, 2016 fourth-round pick Joe Schobert and free agent Demario Davis. Bus Cook, Collins' agent, told Rapoport that Collins is not upset about moving from a 7-1 Patriots team to an 0-8 Browns team and simply wants to go where he's wanted.