Collins, 31, tallied 10 combined tackles with one tackle for a loss and one forced fumble in the first two games this season before being inactive for Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Collins originally signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Lions in 2020 to play with Matt Patricia following his second stint with the Patriots in 2019. After a regime change in Detroit this past offseason, Collins agreed to restructure his deal by reducing his base salary to $3.8 million, converting the remaining $5 million to a prorated bonus and adding three self-voiding years after the final two years of his deal.
Here are six teams who could be in play for Collins’ services:
At 2-0, the Broncos are looking to make a run at a playoff berth in the highly contested AFC West. But Denver needs linebackers after losing starting outside linebacker Bradley Chubb and starting inside linebacker Josey Jewell.
Chubb underwent ankle surgery recently and Jowell landed on injured reserve with a pectoral injury. It’s unclear when either will return, so Collins would be a fantastic stop-gap option for Vic Fangio’s defense and bolster the team’s shot at competing in 2021.
The Dolphins need help at linebacker and Collins fits the mold of a Brian Flores defender. It certainly helps, too, that Collins played in New England when Flores coached there. While middle linebacker Sam Eguavoen looks solid, Collins could supplant any of the others on the roster.
Depending on how long quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is out, the Dolphins will likely need to rely on the defense to stay competitive this season.
Any time Collins is available, the Patriots are always a likely landing spot. He spent his first three seasons in New England before being shipped to Cleveland, and then returned to the Patriots after the Browns cut him in 2019.
Collins wouldn’t jump into a starting role on a crowded Patriots linebackers room but he could become a rotational player with former teammate Dont’a Hightower and former teammate-turned-coach Jerod Mayo.
Pittsburgh will likely lean on its defense as Ben Roethlisberger’s ability dwindles by the week, and Collins would be a huge help.
The linebacker corps looks banged up early this season after injuries to T.J. Watt and Devin Bush, so any depth would fortify the defense in a competitive AFC North. Signing Collins would be a luxury move for the Steelers and their tight salary cap budget, but they may need some support if the offense continues to falter.
Collins could be the missing piece to finish building the rock-solid Rams defense.
The defensive line and secondary are elite, but the Rams could use another inside linebacker in Collins. Los Angeles has a lot of youth in the middle and a veteran like Collins could only help the unit.
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham coached Collins during his two best seasons in New England. He would likely welcome his old protégé in New York.
The Giants don’t have much at linebacker except for Blake Martinez, so Collins could slide into his old role on Graham’s defense at SAM or play alongside Martinez at the WILL spot. Neither Lorenzo Carter nor Tae Crowder would beat out Collins for one of the starting jobs, either. New York doesn’t have the cap space to pay for Collins right now, but he would certainly be a boost for their defense.