CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns took a major step Monday in securing what they believe to be a major cornerstone for their rebuild going forward.
Linebacker Jamie Collins, acquired from the New England Patriots on Oct. 31, 2016 for a conditional 2017 fourth-round draft pick that should convert into a third-round compensatory selection, agreed to a 4-year extension. The Browns announced the deal Monday afternoon.
NFL Network reports Collins’ extension is worth $50 million, including $26 million of that guaranteed, making Collins one of the NFL’s highest paid linebackers. The extension is on par with Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly’s 5-year, $61.8 million contract signed in 2015.
“We are going to be aggressive about acquiring talent, and when we had the opportunity to trade for Jamie back in October, it was done with the intent of him becoming a long-term part of our defense,” executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said. “Jamie has shown throughout his NFL career that he is a very talented player with a rare skill set that allows him to impact games in a number of ways. He’s a versatile, smart, competitive and physical football player who has experienced winning at the highest level. Jamie was great to have in our building this season, and we look forward to him being a Cleveland Brown for a number of years to come. We are counting on him to be a big part of us becoming a winning team.”
Collins, who finished ranked third on the team in tackles despite not arriving until mid-season, was scheduled to hit free agency in March.
Upon his arrival at the end of October it was unclear how anxious he would be to stay in Cleveland considering the Browns didn’t win a game until week 16 and they finished the season 1-15.
“From the day I walked in the door, I felt welcomed by my new teammates and everyone in this organization,” Collins said. “The past is the past as far as last season’s record, but today is a new day. I’m only looking forward. I know we have a lot of work to do, and with coach Hue leading us and the front office bringing in talent, I feel like we are going to get there and I feel good about continuing my career here.”
Collins started all 8 games with the Browns and totaled 69 tackles – 7 for a loss – in addition to 2 sacks and a forced fumble. His 2016 season totals: 15 games, 112 tackles, 8 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles.
The Patriots originally selected the 27-year-old in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
The extension puts a temporary halt to a parade of talent that has walked out the door in recent years and is the first major extension for a current player since cornerback Joe Haden signed a 5-year, $67.5 million extension with the club in 2014.
“I was excited when we were able to trade for him last season, and now, I’m even more excited knowing that he is going to part of our future,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “We all know we have a lot of work to do to get our team where we feel it needs to be. Jamie wants to be a part of that. He wants to help build this team for success. He was outstanding in our locker room last year because he’s seen what success in the NFL looks like and our players respect the way he carries himself. We are all looking forward to him being a part of the success we plan to earn through our hard work and preparation.”
With Collins locked up, the Browns can turn their attention towards receiver Terrelle Pryor, running back Isaiah Crowell, linebacker Christian Kirksey and others as they look to establish a new foundation of players to build the team around.
Cleveland rolled over $49 million in unused salary cap space from this past season and are expected to possess over $100 million in cap room when the new league year begins in March.