They shopped him privately and went public with their plans to move on, but an aging, big-ticket linebacker only has so much trade value in today’s NFL.
Collins was one of the Lions’ top free agent additions in 2020, signing a three-year, $30 million contract under former general manager Bob Quinn and ex-head coach Matt Patricia.
Quinn and Patricia, both from Bill Belichick’s tree in New England, stocked their roster with Patriots castoffs, most of whom are now gone.
The Lions cut ex-Patriots Danny Shelton and Justin Coleman this offseason and chose not to re-sign Danny Amendola and Duron Harmon. Trey Flowers, the team’s No. 1 free agent acquisition in 2019, is the only major ex-Patriot signed in the Quinntricia era left in Detroit.
Collins, a starter on the Patriots’ 2014 Super Bowl team, made 14 starts for the Lions last season and two more this year before he was deactivated for last week’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
He finished his Lions tenure with 111 tackles, three forced fumbles, one interception and one sack in 16 games, but was an inexact fit for new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn’s scheme and appeared to have a lost a step on the field.
The Lions held Collins out of practice all of last week and told him they were giving his role to young linebackers Derrick Barnes and Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
Head coach Dan Campbell said at the time a trade was in the best interests of both parties, and that he expected a deal to happen soon.
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“We’ll see where it goes,” Campbell said last week. “We’ve got suitors right now. So certainly we’re hoping to have this done sooner than later, but we’re not necessarily putting a timetable on it either. We had open communication with Jamie. We sat down and told him straight up. He’s been good. He understands.”
Barnes, a fourth-round pick out of Purdue, and Reeves-Maybin split time at the buck linebacker position against the Ravens, with Barnes playing primarily in base defensive packages and Reeves-Maybin seeing time as a nickel linebacker.
According to Spotrac, the Lions now have more than $50 million in dead money on this year’s salary cap. Collins had $3.2 million left on his contract this season, including about $1.2 million guaranteed, and was on the books for a non-guaranteed $9.8 million in 2022.
The Lions did a simple restructure of Collins’ contract this offseason, converting $5 million of base salary into a signing bonus and adding three dummy years to the back of his deal for cap purposes.
He will count $6.3 million against the cap next season.