Armed with over $100 million in salary cap space and a desperate need to keep and retain their own, the Cleveland Browns smartly invested in outside linebacker Jamie Collins.
Collins, a 6’3 250-pound 2014 Pro Bowl linebacker acquired via trade with the newly-crowned AFC champion New England Patriots for a conditional third-round pick, has reportedly agreed to a four-year contract extension.
The deal, which is rumored to put him in the same class as Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly in terms of money, shows that Cleveland is serious about trying to build some contending blocks and form a nucleus of talent.
It also shows a much-needed step in the right direction for the perennial bottom-feeder Browns.
Aside from wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (27 years old) and running back Isaiah Crowell (24 years old), the 27-year-old Collins is the most important under-30 player that the Browns need to retain. If the Browns hope to contend within the next 2-3 years—and beyond—is committing to a plan, vision, identity, culture and most importantly a core group of players, who are young, talented and WANT to be in Cleveland.
Players that the Browns can build around are running back Duke Johnson (23 years old), wide receiver Corey Coleman (22 years old) and quarterback Cody Kessler (23 years old) are all under 25 and are set to enter their prime years right around the time Cleveland should be competitive and hopefully fighting for a AFC North title and playoff berths.
Retaining Collins, Pryor and Crowell would go a long way in building continuity within such a dysfunctional and unstable franchise as the Browns, and repair the mistakes of letting quality young talent walk such as former first-rounders such in Barkevious Mingo and Alex Mack, second rounders such as Jabaal Sheard and undrafted free agents such as Taylor Gabriel be 60 minutes away from a Super Bowl ring.
Yes, that does sting a little, doesn’t it?
Hopefully watching these former Browns play in Super Bowl LI will motivate the current Browns front office to be more proactive in locking up and signing young talent instead of having to watch them play for a title on the game’s biggest age elsewhere.