Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia speaks to the media during the NFL combine on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Indianapolis.
Detroit Free Press
As Day 1 of free agency neared its end, the Detroit Lions found some help for their underachieving defense.
The Lions agreed to terms Monday with linebacker Jamie Collins on a three-year deal worth $30 million.
Collins, who reunites with Lions coach Matt Patricia, his defensive coordinator with the New England Patriots in 2013-16, got $18 million fully guaranteed on the deal and will make $20 million in the first two seasons.
The Patriots traded Collins to the Cleveland Browns midway through the 2016 season, then re-signed the versatile linebacker last year.
Collins tore the MCL in his right knee in a game against the Lions in 2017. He rebounded with a 104-tackle season for the Browns in 2018 and posted career highs of seven sacks and three interceptions for the Patriots last season.
He can play any linebacker position and should help a Lions team that struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season and ranked 26th in scoring defense at 26.4 points per game.
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“Jamie was a great player,” Patricia told reporters after Collins’ trade in 2016, per NESN.com. “He was a great person — still is, obviously. (I have) a close relationship with him. That’s part of the reason that we coach is to build those relationships with players and help them become better players, but also better people.”
The Lions return their entire linebacking corps and will have playing-time decisions to make this fall.
Jarrad Davis struggled with ankle injuries, and the Lions have until May to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. Christian Jones signed a two-year contract extension in November. Jahlani Tavai showed promise as a rookie before a shoulder injury ended his season.
And Devon Kennard tied for the team lead with seven sacks, but is entering the final season on his contract.
Collins’ familiarity with Patricia’s defense should make for a swift transition. The NFL announced on Monday that offseason programs are suspended until further notice due to COVID-19, and it’s possible teams will have to forgo formal workouts this spring altogether.
Early Monday, the Lions agreed to a five-year contract with Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai. SiriusXM NFL radio reported Vaitai’s deal is for five years and $50 million.
He can play guard or tackle, but is expected to take over at right tackle for Rick Wagner, who was released last week.
Players cannot sign with other teams until the 2020 league year opens at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and the Lions still have plenty of holes to fill on their roster.
They hope to land one or two starters for their defensive line, plus help for their secondary, and they’re seeking a trade partner for cornerback Darius Slay.
Slay has one year left on his deal and wants a new contract, something the Lions have been reluctant to give.