By Brian Dulik
BEREA — The winless Cleveland Browns were perceived to be sellers, not buyers, on the eve of the NFL’s trade deadline. They proved that theory wrong Monday.
Cleveland acquired Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins from the Patriots in exchange for a conditional third-round draft choice, bolstering a defense that has allowed the most yards in the league.
“We traded for a great player, and that says a lot about our front office,” Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor said. “When I heard we got Jamie Collins, I was so excited and so ecstatic. His athleticism and versatility are tremendous, and he’s experienced.
“We got better today. The future ain’t what it used to be.”
The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder was a second-round selection by New England in 2013. He is earning $485,928 in the final year of his rookie contract, but negotiations for a new pact had stalled.
Collins led the Patriots in tackles in each of the last two seasons, starting every defensive snap in their Super Bowl 49 victory. He has 285 tackles, 10 1/2 sacks and five interceptions in 50 career games, making him Cleveland’s most accomplished linebacker.
Pryor and Collins, both 27-year-old pending unrestricted free agents, will receive huge raises if they hit the open market, but the Browns have the ability to prevent that with their NFL-high $47.6 million in salary cap room. They are only permitted to use the franchise tag on one player.
“I don’t think we want to try Collins out, I think we would love to keep him,” Cleveland coach Hue Jackson said. “We know what he is, we know what he brings to the table, and I don’t think we would have done this if we didn’t think there was an opportunity to move forward with him.”
Collins is expected to join the team Tuesday, the league’s trade deadline. New England could wind up with a 2017 third-rounder or a 2018 fourth-round choice in the deal, depending on if he re-signs with the Browns.
Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas and two-time former Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden have been mentioned as possible trade bait by Cleveland, but neither player said they expect to be dealt.
Collins has 43 tackles, two interceptions and one sack in seven games this season, sitting out one contest with a hip injury. The Southern Mississippi product was an Associated Press second team All-Pro in 2015, when he was chosen for his first Pro Bowl.
Jackson said he was uncertain if Collins will play inside or outside linebacker Sunday, when the Browns host Dallas.
“This young man, I think he gets it, so there are several things he can do,” said Jackson, whose squad is 0-8. “Let’s get him here and we’ll see where his comfort level is and what is most important to him. We will definitely find ways to plug him in and have him be a contributing member of our defense.”
On Aug. 25, the Browns traded linebacker Barkevious Mingo to New England for a fifth-round pick.
NOTES: Rookie WR Corey Coleman (broken hand) and rookie QB Cody Kessler (concussion) have been medically cleared to practice. Coleman, the No. 15 overall pick, was hurt on Sept. 18 against Baltimore. Kessler suffered a head injury two weeks ago at Tennessee. . Jackson was noncommittal whether QB Josh McCown or Kessler would start against the Cowboys. “Obviously, Josh was the starter (Sunday in a 31-28 loss to the Jets), and we have to make sure Cody is ready to go,” the coach said. “I will worry about that as we move through the week.” Cleveland has used an NFL-high six quarterbacks, including three starters.
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