Pats finalize preseason schedule

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Pats finalize preseason schedule

The lockout is (at least temporarily) lifted, the Patriots are making (err, trading) picks, and the preseason schedule has been finalized. Yes, football seems to be right around the corner.

The Patriots have been a hot ticket for years now, and with just eight regular season games, it's the hardest sports ticket to come by.

Regular season a bit too pricey? Weather too cold? Just looking to tailgate? Maybe you want to be there for Patriots first round pick Nate Solder's first NFL play?

No worries, the preseason was meant just for you!

And with that, the finalized preseason schedule:

The Patriots kick off the preseason with a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, August 11 at 7:30 p.m., perhaps quarterbacked by first round draft pick Blaine Gabbert, picked 10th overall by the Jaguars this year.

Hopefully they fare better against this rookie QB than they did when the Rams' Sam Bradford threw all over them last preseason.

The next week, Thursday, August 18 at 7:30 p.m., the Pats will travel to Tampa Bay, followed by another road game the week after in Detroit on Saturday, August 27, scheduled for 8:00 p.m. The Pats will see their fair share of the Lions' Ndamukong Suh and 2011 first round pick Nick Fairley.

The third week of preseason usually sees teams use their starters for a good half or so of the game, but Pats fans won't be upset if Tom Brady sits out the majority of it with those two players lining up on the opposite side of him.

The Pats wrap up the preseason on Thursday, September 1, at 7:30 p.m. against the New York Giants. This is the seventh straight year the two teams have met in the preseason. Perhaps another preseason victory over the Giants will make Pats fans forget about . . .

Never mind.

Collins gets his pay day as Patriots prepare for Super Bowl

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Collins gets his pay day as Patriots prepare for Super Bowl

NFL Siberia can’t be all that bad. The Cleveland Browns have signed Jamie Collins to an extension that keeps him off the free agent market.

The former Patriot, stunningly shipped out of town on Halloween, has agreed to a reported four-year, $50 million deal with $26M in guaranteed money.

As eyebrow-raising as the move was at the time, this is an all’s well that ends well story.

Collins, a reluctant Patriot once it came clear the team wouldn’t to aim a confetti cannon of money at him, gets the desired big-dough deal. He didn’t drape himself in glory with his level of play this year in New England, but his agitation over making $900K this year was understandable.

The Patriots -- who made the deal not knowing exactly how it would work out with Collins’ fleet of replacements (primarily rookie Elandon Roberts and, October acquisition Kyle Van Noy) -- have played better defense since Collins has been gone and are headed to the Super Bowl.

Would they have been better if Collins stayed? The answer to that is a question: Which version of Collins, the irked one or the motivated one?

Collins did nothing to veil his desire for a huge contract, saying at the end of the season he’d stay with the hapless Browns if the money was right. Now that he’s decided the money was right, what kind of Collins will the Browns get? With $26M guaranteed, the Browns have tethered themselves to the 27-year-old Collins for a chunk of his prime. The shorter term is ideal for Collins because -- if he performs to his capability -- he’ll be able to see another lucrative deal before he’s too aged.

The deal will certainly be noticed by Collins’ former teammates, primarily Donta Hightower who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

The Patriots could franchise Hightower (last year’s tag number was more than $14M) but that’s not going to be ideal for either side. Hightower will want to get the windfall of guaranteed money that comes with a long-term deal and the Patriots may be reluctant to pay that much to a player that’s got an injury history and plays one of the game’s most violent positions.

A lot’s going to happen between now and the time the Patriots have to make their decision. A good deal of it will happen in the next 12 days. If Hightower stealthily saves the Super Bowl as he did in 2014 with his first-down tackle on Marshawn Lynch … how do you put a price on that?