Just four weeks into the season, the New England Patriots have already begun digging through their emergency insurance list. With the signing of wide receiver Austin Collie, though, the Patriots have developed a pattern of signing talented players who are seemingly made of glass.
The signing was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN Boston:
The Patriots have signed veteran WR Austin Collie, according to a league source.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 3, 2013
Let's make two things clear right now:
- Signing Collie is not a move that indicts the Patriots as lacking confidence in their young receivers.
- It took multiple injuries to key players before the Patriots even budged to make a move.
The Patriots have had Collie in their cross-hairs since June, when the team had him in for a workout.
They didn't sign him then, but with injuries piling up already, the Patriots felt now was the time to make the move. Wide receiver Danny Amendola has missed the past three games with a groin injury, and his status remains uncertain. The Patriots also added rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (shoulder) and Aaron Dobson (neck) to their injury report this week.
It's fairly ironic that the Patriots would sign Collie under these circumstances; after all, Collie's injury history is part of the reason he was available this year, and he missed 22 of 48 games over the past three years.
Collie has had four concussions in his career, but his most recent season-ending injury was a ruptured patella tendon—which can be even trickier to come back from than a torn ACL. He suffered that injury in September of last year, and Don Banks of Sports Illustrated reported in March that it could take until October for him to be 100 percent again.
Mainly, though, the concern for NFL teams in signing Collie has been that he may be a liability due to the repeated concussions. However, it looks as though Collie would be willing to do anything in order to play again. Collie said in an interview with Jim Corbett of USA Today that he is willing to sign a waiver saying that he would not pursue legal action against any team that signed him if he suffers another concussion while playing in the NFL.
"I'll sign a waiver, all right?" Collie said in the interview. "They're not going to have to worry about me suing. I'll hold myself to be accountable."
Given the player he was being compared to prior to his litany of injuries, it's not a surprise he's drawn interest from the Patriots.
Of course, Collie was probably the player compared most often to Welker prior to injuries derailing career. Can he be that guy again?— Collin McCollough (@cmccollo) October 3, 2013
The Patriots brought in Amendola to help replace slot receiver Wes Welker, and now they're turning to another player who has drawn Welker comparisons in their effort to ease the absence of Amendola.
Collie has done most of his work over the middle of the field. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he ran 93.2 percent of his routes from the slot in 2011, his last healthy season. That season, he was targeted 83 times and caught 48 balls for 438 yards and a touchdown.
How much of a burden will be placed on Collie will depend on how long Amendola is injured, as well as the long-term status of Dobson and Thompkins. Most likely, however, Collie isn't being asked to come in and make an impact right away. The signing is an insurance policy on what's been an otherwise tumultuous season for the Patriots at receiver in terms of injuries and performance.
The hope is that Collie, if healthy, can add another slot presence along with Julian Edelman to help the Patriots offense continue to move the chains. If not healthy, the Patriots are no worse off than they already were.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.