As the Patriots dealt Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland yesterday for practically nothing, the biggest question was, why? Some hinted that it was a money issue. Others pointed towards his “freelancing” on defense. Former assistant coach Michael Lombardi, with the team from 2014-2016, had some interesting comments and criticism on the trade.

“I used to tell Jamie in the meetings: ‘We are as good as you want us to be’. But there’s times where Jaime just didn’t really want to be,” Lombardi said. “He played on an 0-11 team in Southern Miss., and sometimes he plays like he’s still on that team. And I think, at this point,(the Patriots) just said, ‘You know what? We’re not going to sign him in free agency; it’s time to move on.”

He then added in a separate interview that Jamie wasn’t performing up to expectations.

“Well, I think Collins has played poorly all season,” he said. “He’s going to be a free agent at the end of the year. (The Patriots) had no interest in really signing him for next year, and the way he played through the first eight games, he was getting demoted within each game.”

Lombardi then went on to say how he believed Collins’ play has slipped so far this season.

“Watch the tape. Jamie has not played particularly well,” Lombardi said, via WEEI.com. “Sometimes freelancing is a problem, and I think sometimes effort is a problem.”

Some people insisted that Collins’ play has been fine this year, but his playing time has significantly decreased. The Patriots have averaged fewer rushing yards per play with Collins off the field and Elandon Roberts on. But Pro Football Focus ranked Collins high on the list of linebackers this season.

“Who is doing the grading? Evaluate the evaluator,” Lombardi said. “I would rather go with Bill Belichick’s evaluation than Pro Football Focus.”

He also shut down any rumor about the Patriots offering Collins $11 million dollars per year in contract negotiations.

“I don’t think that’s accurate. In fact, I know that’s not accurate,” Lombardi said.

“It’s not about his contract. Let’s forget that,” he added. “Because if he was playing at a Pro Bowl level, as you believe he’s playing, they would keep him and use him. But if he’s playing at the level I’ve watched on tape, there is really nothing you can do. You’re better off trying to cut your losses and get something for him. It’s nothing about the extension.”

Lombardi’s strongest point was that Collins ultimately wasn’t getting the job done to the level Belichick expects.

“Through eight games as a Patriot this season, he had not been playing at a level that’s acceptable to winning and beating good teams,” Lombardi said. “The conversation we’re having isn’t about beating Landry Jones and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s about beating Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in a championship game.”

Lombardi did not hold back when describing the Collins trade and believes Belichick is sending a message to his underperforming defense.

“To me, this was all about sending a message to all the either guys in the locker room,” Lombardi said.