BOSTON (CBS) — Bill Belichick is not afraid to make any move, even if that means shipping out a fan favorite off of his roster.
His latest example came on Monday, as Belichick traded linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns for a conditional draft pick. Collins has been a dynamic player in the New England defense since they drafted him in the second round in 2013, but he was due for a new contract at the end of the season and was looking to get paid. A lot.
Mix in some reported issues with his style of play this season, and that’s Bill’s recipe for cashing in on a talented player. He’s done it before, and will keeping doing it as long as he feels the move is what’s best for the team.
Time will tell how trading Collins in the middle of the season will work out for Belichick and the Patriots, but here are the other times he felt no remorse in sending away a fan favorite for the better of the team’s future.
Releasing Lawyer Milloy (2003)
A four-time Pro Bowl safety during his seven years with the Patriots, Milloy was released five days before the 2003 opener after he and the Patriots couldn’t agree on a renegotiated contract. He signed with the Bills a few days later, and beat his former team to the tune of 31-0 in Week 1 in Buffalo.
It made sense on paper, as the Patriots added Rodney Harrison to their defensive backfield during the offseason, but Milloy was a leader in the locker room. “In Belichick We Trust” had yet to take its hold and many people started to question whether Belichick’s players actually liked their coach (see: Tom Jackson of ESPN).
The Patriots had the last laugh though, as they would go on to win their first of two straight Super Bowls at the end of the season.
No Deal For Deion Branch (2005)
Deion Branch was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX after hauling in 11 catches for 133 yards in New England’s thrilling win over the Philadelphia Eagles, and set career highs with 78 receptions for 998 yards and five touchdowns in 2005. But he wanted more than the $1.045 million he was set to make in 2006 in the final year of his rookie contract, and started a holdout after saying “no thanks” to a three-year extension from the Patriots.
Branch’s holdout continued into the regular season and on September 11, 2006, the Patriots sent him to the Seattle Seahawks for a 2007 first-round pick (used to select safety Brandon Meriweather). The trade wasn’t too surprising, but it left Brady with a season of throwing to the likes of Reche Caldwell and Doug Gabriel. It was frustrating for fans, and even more so for their quarterback.
Branch put up some decent (not great) numbers in Seattle, but Brady really missed one of his favorite targets. The Patriots lost a gut-wrenching AFC Championship Game to the Indianapolis Colts later that season.
Not Franchising, Signing Adam Vinatieri (2006)
Vinatieri didn’t give the Patriots a chance to match the five-year contract he received from the Indianapolis Colts when he hit free agency in 2006, but the Patriots chose not to franchise their star kicker after doing so in 2005, allowing him to hit the open market.
The Pats replaced Vinatieri quickly, drafting Stephen Gostkowski in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Gostkowski has worked out pretty well filling Vinatieri’s shoes, surpassing his franchise record for points in 2014.
Trading Mike Vrabel (2009)
Vrabel was the perfect example of a Bill Belichick guy, plucked off another team’s scrap heap to become an integral part of the New England defense. But after eight seasons in a Patriots uniform and three Super Bowl titles, Vrabel was shipped out of town as an addition to Belichick’s Matt Cassel swap with the Chiefs in 2009.
It was obvious that Cassel was getting traded after his one season under center, with Tom Brady set to return from injury, but the fact that Vrabel was also part of the swap that only netted New England a second-round pick (which turned into safety Patrick Chung) was a little more than Patriots fans wanted to digest.
Trading Richard Seymour (2009)
With Seymour set to become a free agent at the end of the season, the Patriots sent the defensive star to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick just a few days before the season. Seymour, who didn’t initially report to the Raiders, went on to get paid in Oakland and finished with 18.5 sacks over his four years with the Raiders.
The Patriots turned that first-round pick they acquired in the Seymour deal into left tackle Nate Solder, who has been protecting Tom Brady’s blindside full-time since Matt Light’s retirement in 2012, but the Pats D missed him clogging the defensive line in 2009.
Trading Randy Moss (2010)
Moss quickly turned into a fan favorite with his 23-touchdown season in 2007, but things began to sour early in the 2009 season. The receiver seemed more interested in his impending free agency, and by October, he had talked his way off the team. Belichick decided to extinguish any potential distraction before it got too big, and sent Moss to Minnesota for a third-round pick in 2011 (later used to draft quarterback Ryan Mallett).
Moss didn’t behave very well in Minnesota either, and just a few days after his return to Gillette Stadium for a Vikings loss to the Pats, he was released by the team for making critical comments about his head coach, Brad Childress.
Wes Welker Walks (2013)
When Tom Brady restructured his contract over the offseason, it looked like Welker was destined to keep catching passes from Brady for years to come. But when the two sides couldn’t work out a contract, Welker bolted for Denver to catch passes from Peyton Manning on a two-year, $12 million deal.
The Patriots had Julian Edelman waiting in the wings and quickly signed Danny Amendola after the Welker announcement. Welker was his usual self to start his Broncos career, with 73 receptions and 10 touchdowns in 13 regular season games, but concussion issues would began to hamper his career and he had just 49 receptions in 2014.
Aqib Talib Bolts For Denver (2014)
The Patriots turned their defense around in 2012 with the deadline day acquisition of Talib, and he returned to the team on a one-year deal for 2013. But Talib wanted to get paid when he hit the free agent market in 2014, and he took $57 million (including $26 million in guaranteed money) over six years from the Denver Broncos.
This one only stung for a few hours though, as Belichick quickly worked out a two-year contract for Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis (essentially a one-year deal, as New England never intended on paying Revis $20 million for 2015). Things got better when the Patriots won the Super Bowl at the end of the season, but Talib continues to be one of the best corners in the NFL with the Broncos.
Logan Mankins Gets Dealt To Tampa (2014)
Mankins was never afraid to voice his displeasure with his contract, and even sat out the first part of the 2010 season in hopes of getting a new deal. The Patriots franchised Mankins in 2011, but the two sides worked out a six-year deal in 2011 that made him the highest-paid guard in the NFL.
The feisty lineman was a fan favorite for protecting Tom Brady, picking up receivers in celebration and playing through a torn ACL for much of the 2011 season, but his run with the Pats came to an end in 2014 when he refused to take a pay cut. Instead, Belichick traded Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on August 26, just days ahead of the season opener, for tight end Tim Wright and a 2015 fourth-round pick (later used to draft defensive end/linebacker Trey Flowers).
Trading Chandler Jones To Arizona (2016)
The Patriots knew going into the 2016 offseason that defensive end Chandler Jones and linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins were due for a big payday (not to mention corner Malcolm Butler would be a restricted free agent), so they moved on early from Jones by sending him to Arizona for guard Jonathan Cooper (who was released early in the 2016 season) and a 2016 second-round pick (used to draft lineman Joe Thuney).
While Thuney has been a solid addition to their young offensive line, the defense has missed Jones in the pass-rush.