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Jamie Collins should be the centerpiece of the Browns defense

With the signing of linebacker Jamie Collins to a long-term contract, will Gregg Williams make him the center piece of the defense?

I applaud the Browns for re-signing Jamie Collins. 

I have been critical in the past of the Browns of not identifying players in their prime leaving through free agency and playing well with other teams. Last year, the loss of Mitchell Schwartz, Travis Benjamin and Tashaun Gipson to free agency were mistakes by the front office, especially that of Schwartz. Benjamin and Gipson were losses mainly because they didn't have players to take their place. Alex Mack's ability to leave was due to former front offices not signing him to an extension earlier in his career. In previous years, players like Jabaal Sheard, T.J. Ward and Buster Skrine were allowed to leave and performed well on other teams. 

When the Browns acquired Collins at the trade deadline from the Patriots, I didn't think the Browns would be able to keep him unless they used the franchise tag after they traded for him. To me, it looked as though Bill Belichick was banishing Collins to the Siberia of the NFL to get something for him before he left via free agency. The narrative on Collins at the time of the trade was that he was demanding Von Miller-type money and that he "free lanced" too much. The Browns signed Collins to a reported four-year contract for approximately $50 million, including $26 million guaranteed. 

Who knows if the Browns overpaid or not, but the Browns have been stockpiling salary cap space for a while now and it's time to start spending some of the money.

I have to admit while watching the AFC championship game last week, I saw the Patriots really didn't miss Collins. A team with a proven system like New England can plug in players and they know their definitive roles.

However, for a team like the Browns, Collins was arguably one of their best defensive players, if not the best. Collins is just 27 years old and made the Pro Bowl after the 2015 season. He just finished his fourth NFL season and played in just eight games for the Browns, including every defensive snap in six of the eight games. Despite playing in just eight games, Collins finished third on the team in tackles and had 10 or more tackles in three games. 

The Browns addressed more than one problem by retaining Collins. If there was a player in the first round in the upcoming draft like Collins available, I think most Browns fans would sign up for that. With that said, since they retained Collins, they can use free agency or those draft picks on other players to address other needs. 

Many Browns fans might assume that if Belichick gave up on Collins, he must know something others do not.

Although not mentioning any names, Gregg Williams made it a point to talk about a player that was cast off from Belichick's system that turned into a solid player for the Rams defense. Patriots 2014 first round draft pick, defensive lineman Dominique Easley was released by Belichick before the 2016 season and joined the Rams. 

"I just left at the Rams," Williams said. "I really do, and I feel for their hearts. We were pretty good on defense. What people do not realize – everybody says that roster was so great - we dressed on defense eight undrafted free agents, four more that were in the sixth and seventh round. We had a few guys up front out of the first round, but we had one first rounder that Coach Belichick said he did not want him anymore. "It is funny to see the, when we did all the background on that and as you guys the background told us totally different on what kind of a person he was, and he is one of my favorite guys I have ever had a chance to coach," he said. "Why? Because he can defend himself in a verbal argument. He has fun teasing but he can flat play too, so I miss those guys already."

Jackson said the Browns have big plans to utilize Collins' talent, whether as an inside linebacker or outside. 

"There's a lot of things we know he can do and we'll give him an opportunity to do that," Jackson told Cleveland.com at the Senior Bowl. "Coach Williams has a very diverse system that's going to put him in a lot of different places to make plays for him, and I think Jamie's up to that."

It might be no coincidence that Williams was thinking of the possibilities of having Collins in his defensive system. Williams might be able to put together a role for Collins to be one of the better defensive play makers in the league. Most observers feel there are some pieces on the defense that Williams can build around, including up-and-coming young players like Christian Kirksey, Danny Shelton, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jamar Taylor among others.

If they can add a Myles Garrett or Jonathan Allen to the mix up front to free Collins up, along with a playmaker or two in the secondary, the defense might be able to turn things around, sooner than later. 


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