Cleveland’s front office is keeping impending free agent Jamie Collins off the open market.
The Browns have agreed to a four-year contract with Collins, the team announced Monday. Collins’ new deal is worth $50 million ($26 million in guarantees), a contract that eclipses the per-year salary of Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly ($12.36 million), NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the process. The two sides have worked on hammering out the specifics of the deal since it was first reported Thursday.
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Collins was acquired from the Patriots in exchange for a compensatory draft pick, stunning the football world at the trade deadline. Immediately featured as an every-down linebacker, Collins racked up 69 tackles and two sacks in eight games with Cleveland.
The Pats had offered Collins in excess of $10 million annually, Rapoport reported in late October, while Collins placed his own cheap jerseys value among the highest-paid linebackers in the league.
Regardless of the price tag, keeping Collins in-house makes sense for an organization with a surfeit of salary-cap space and precious few Pro Bowl-caliber talents on the roster. He’s a more natural fit in new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ 4-3 scheme after moonlighting at outside linebacker in Ray Horton’s 3-4 system in the season’s final two months.
“I think you’ve got to be careful reaching for a quarterback at No. 1 because if they fail, they don’t help your team at all. Whereas if you pick a defensive lineman and they don’t live up to the hype, you can still find a place to get them and wholesale jerseys on the field and to have an impact,” Thomas said. “We’re a team that, we need guys who can come in and start and contribute. That’s the risk of taking a quarterback.”
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Those comments mirror what Thomas told Around The NFL’s Conor Orr on Thursday at Pro Bro practice in Orlando, Fla.
“I think I’ve seen a million different plans in the NFL, but really the thing that’s going to give you the best chances of success are being patient, building through the draft, picking the right guys in free agency, re-singing your own players, and just having patience with the plan,” Thomas said.
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“You have to accept a couple of tough years. That’s just the way it is. There are no quick fixes in the NFL. You could get lucky and a franchise quarterback falls into your lap, and then you turn your franchise around. But the chances of that happening, even with a top five pick, are probably 25 percent. You can’t really bet the house on the odds when it’s only 25 percent.”
Earlier this week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Browns coach Hue Jackson was asked about the factors that weigh in determining whether a quarterback is the right move for Cleveland at the top of the draft. He also acknowledged that the Browns will add a quarterback to the roster at some point, though he didn’t specify whether that would be done through the draft or in free agency.
“I think you have to go through (the process) and weigh what’s best,” Jackson said, per the Akron Beacon Journal. “Who is the best player? We haven’t determined that. Is the best player a defensive end? Is it a quarterback? Is it a defensive back? I don’t know yet until you can evaluate them all and line them all up and see where they are and see what’s best.
“We all a know a quarterback is very important to our football team. But is he the best player? We’ve got to find that out. We need to put one on our team. We’re going to find one. I promise you guys that. We’re going to do that. I think that’s imperative.”
If the Browns indeed take a pass rusher at the top of the draft, Thomas will be one of the first who can tell whether the selection is a boom, a bust, or something in between. If he gets his way, he’ll get a chance to make such an evaluation in training camp.