Bengals Not Planning To Try La’el Collins At Guard

With Orlando Brown Jr. now locked in at left tackle, a Bengals team that saw offensive line injuries sink its effort to book back-to-back Super Bowl berths is suddenly deep on the right side. Displaced blindside bastion Jonah Williams joins La’el Collins and Jackson Carman in a right tackle battle that is sure to garner attention from other teams.

Although Williams looks to have backed off his trade request, a trade involving one of the competitors could conceivably be in play. But the Bengals are not planning to try a potential “best five” scenario up front. A lineup in which Brown, Williams and Collins play together — with Collins sliding to guard — could be logical, as Collins has guard experience. But that is not expected to be a path the team considers, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

The Bengals return Alex Cappa at right guard and are not entertaining a potential demotion of Cordell Volson at left guard, Dehner adds, noting the team views the 2022 fourth-round pick as an ascending player. Brown is placing a priority on forming a rapport with Volson on the left side, and the latter was one of just two Cincinnati O-line starters — joining center Ted Karras — to remain on the field when the season ended in Kansas City.

Collins has a past at guard, coming into the NFL at the position. Falling out of the draft due to an off-field issue in 2015, Collins made his way into the Cowboys’ starting lineup at left guard during his rookie season. Dallas then began the 2016 campaign with the overqualified UDFA opposite Zack Martin. But a toe injury shut down Collins three games into the 2016 slate. That malady ended his guard run; the Cowboys moved the LSU product to right tackle in 2017. Collins stayed at that position in Dallas through the 2021 season, signing two extensions with the team. Following a 2022 release, Collins signed a three-year, $21MM Bengals deal.

This contract carries a $9.4MM 2023 cap number, and the Bengals can move on — via trade or release — for less than $2MM in dead money. The team was not thrilled with Collins’ debut, helping lead to the Brown pursuit, but the veteran has made 86 career starts. Collins, 30 in July, would seemingly be of interest to a tackle-needy team, should his recovery from December ACL and MCL tears go according to plan. Carman’s contract runs through 2024, making him a more cost-efficient backup to Williams. A 2021 second-rounder whom Volson beat out for the left guard gig, Carman finished last season as Williams’ replacement at left tackle.

Volson’s rookie deal runs through 2025, and he stands to make a logical left-sider next to Brown, who is tied to the most lucrative O-line accord in Bengals history. Pro Football Focus graded Volson outside the top 60 at guard last season, leaving some work ahead for the North Dakota State alum. But he remains the unquestioned Bengals starter at left guard, with Collins only a potential option in the event of an injury.

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