So, I was all ready to tell you that the NFL's trade deadline is Tuesday and not to expect anything major. The NFL deadline is nothing like those in the NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball because of salary-cap issues and all those bonuses paid out to players that are stretched out over years in cap form. You don't have those bonus issues in the other sports because those players' contracts are guaranteed. Last year, the biggest name to go around the deadline in the NFL was past-his-prime tight end Vernon Davis.
And, frankly, one player isn't going to make much of a difference in the NFL in midseason because no one is trading their star quarterback or defender. At least that's what I thought. Yet on Monday, the New England Patriots pulled a stunner in dealing arguably their most important defensive player in Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns.
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In seven games this year, the 27-year-old Collins has 31 tackles, two interceptions, three pass breakups and a sack. He missed a game against the Bengals in Week 6 with a hip issue. Why would the Super Bowl betting favorites trade such an important player? For the same reason they dealt their best pass-rusher, Chandler Jones, this offseason: Because both are set to hit free agency this offseason. And it's hard to bet against Bill Belichick's decisions.
Somewhat of an odd deal for the Browns considering they could well go winless this season, but they must believe they can re-sign Collins, who reportedly wants Von Miller money ($70 million guaranteed). The Browns also have the option to apply the franchise tag to Collins. Last offseason, that figure was $14.19 million for linebackers.
The trade is for a third-round compensatory pick if the Browns are awarded one. If the Browns don't get that pick from the league, the trade is for a fourth-round pick. The Cleveland defense does need all the help it can get as no team has scored fewer than 25 points on the Browns this season, and four of eight have scored more than 30. Collins is expected to play Sunday against Dallas ( a 7.5-point favorite). The Browns were rumored to be active on the trade market, but as sellers. Receiver Josh Gordon, offensive tackle Joe Thomas (Seattle could really use him) and cornerback Joe Haden all are on the market. The Jets are rumored sellers with receiver Brandon Marshall and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. The 49ers would trade just about anyone.
Here are some Week 9 early lines that caught my eye. I won't touch on Thursday's game (Falcons-Bucs), the marquee Sunday matchup (Broncos-Raiders) or the Monday night game (Bills-Seahawks) as I will be previewing them here individually. Chicago, Cincinnati, New England, Arizona, Washington and Houston are on the bye.
Jaguars at Chiefs (-8.5, 45.5): When I previewed Jacksonville's game last Thursday at Tennessee, I took the Titans at -2.5 on the alternate line and wrote that it wouldn't shock me at all if the Jaguars fired their coach if they lost in embarrassing fashion. Well, they did. And a coach was fired, it just wasn't head coach Gus Bradley for some reason. Instead, Bradley canned offensive coordinator Greg Olson, saying the offense needed to be "stimulated." Quarterback Blake Bortles sure needs to be as he was really bad again -- disregard his final numbers as pretty much everything came in garbage time vs. the Titans. Bortles and the Jacksonville offense had a breakout 2015 season, but that unit ranks 26th in yards, 31st in rushing, 24th in scoring and last on third down. Olson was replaced by QBs coach Nathaniel Hackett. He has NFL play-calling experience from 2013-14 in Buffalo. This line could change depending on the status of Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith and running backs Spencer Ware and Jamaal Charles. The former two left Sunday's win over Indianapolis with concussions. Nick Foles would start in Smith's place and he was quite good against the Colts. Charles just can't get right off last year's torn ACL, didn't play Sunday and was to see Dr. James Andrews on Monday. That's never a good thing. Here's hoping his great career isn't over. The pick: Jaguars and under.
Colts at Packers (-7, 54): I expected Green Bay to play in a shootout this past Sunday in Atlanta and the Packers did, losing 33-32 to the Falcons. Should be another one this week -- it's the highest total on the board -- as Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers face off for the second time in their pro careers. Remember, these teams were supposed to open the preseason against one another in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, but field issues canceled that. The Packers managed 32 points vs. Atlanta despite playing without receiver Randall Cobb and receiver/running back Ty Montgomery. Both were somewhat surprise scratches and certainly messed up fantasy leagues everywhere. Cobb had a hamstring injury and Montgomery some sort of illness relating to his sickle-cell trait. So obviously monitor those two. Ditto Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who also sat. Green Bay gave up on running back Knile Davis on Monday, releasing him two weeks after acquiring Davis from Kansas City. So the Packers must think Montgomery is going to play. Meanwhile, Colts Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis is in the NFL's concussion protocol. The pick: Packers and over.
Steelers at Ravens (-2.5, 43.5): Both clubs off their bye. Believe it or not, it's looking like Pittsburgh might have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for this showdown, which is pretty amazing considering he has missed just one game after tearing a meniscus in his knee. The original diagnosis following surgery was 4-6 weeks. Big Ben was at practice on Monday. The Steelers' two straight losses have dropped them to 4-3, but they remain one game ahead of both the Bengals and Ravens (who have lost four in a row) in the AFC North. It's the first time these two have played with first place in the North on the line in four years. The Steelers are also expecting back Cam Heyward back after missing two games with a hamstring. The Ravens swept the Steelers last year, each by a field goal. It was Baltimore's first sweep of the series since 2011. Roethlisberger missed one of the games. The Ravens are 8-9 vs. Roethlisberger in his career; they're 6-1 against the Steelers when Pittsburgh has been without him. The pick: Steelers and over if Roethlisberger plays. Ravens and under if not.
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