Saints Eyeing Patriots’ Pro Bowler in Free Agency: Report

Jamie Collins

Getty Images Patriots OLB Jamie Collins

The New England Patriots find themselves in unchartered territory this offseason as their star QB Tom Brady prepares to hit the open market for the first time in his 20-year NFL career. When free agency opens on March 18, Brady will be joined by a number of the team’s key contributors including FS Devin McCourty, WR/ST Matthew Slater, G Joe Thuney, LB Kyle Van Noy and OLB Jamie Collins.

The latter three – Thuney, Van Noy and Collins – are all expected to price themselves out of New England’s range given their age and production. Of the group, Collins may be the most interesting case study in the coming weeks following his 2019 revival campaign with the Patriots. The 30-year-old linebacker flashed moments of Defensive Player of the Year potential at points throughout the season, finishing the year with 81 total tackles and career-highs in sacks (7.0), pass deflections (7) and interceptions (3) in 16 games (15 starts).

Given his unique skill set and versatility on the field, Collins is likely to draw significant interest from teams looking to make a splash signing in the front seven. Per The Athletic columnist Larry Holder, New Orleans could be one of the teams aiming to make a run at Collins later this month.

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The Saints are historically aggressive at filling needs at linebacker through free agency as well. One name to keep an eye on: Jamie Collins.

Interest will be there from the Saints for the veteran linebacker following one of his best seasons in New England after veering off two years in Cleveland. Collins played 81 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps last season and tallied a career-high seven sacks. PFR rated his 2019 season within the top 15-21 highest values overall in the NFL along the same lines as DeForest Buckner, Zack Martin, Christian McCaffrey and Russell Wilson.

The Patriots are currently operating with approximately $29 million in salary cap space, per cap expert Miguel Benzan. While that total is relatively healthy for most NFL teams, it may not be enough to retain all of the top talents scheduled for a payday, Collins included. In 2019, the Patriots’ 2013 second-round pick (No. 52 overall) outplayed the one-year, $2 million deal signed last May after being cut by the Cleveland Browns two months prior. Spotrac now places Collins’ market value around $8.8 million or the equivalent of a two-year, $17.6 million free agent contract.

New Orleans‘ financial health is a bit worse off as of writing, ranking towards the bottom of the league with approximately $12.3 million in available funds. The NFC South champions find themselves in a tricky spot with all three quarterbacks on roster primed to hit the market, although 41-year-old Drew Brees has already announced he will return for his 20th season. Also among the Saints’ class of free agents are four linebackers, including OLB A.J. Klein, who started 15 games for the team last season.

Making the numbers work on a contract for Collins will pose a challenge to New Orleans, but there is no doubt the positional need is a real one.

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