SEPTEMBER 13: Collins’ health will no doubt influence his free agent prospects to a great extent. On that point, Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline reports he should be available to suit up in either late October or November. The timing of when Collins does find a home could lead to an injury grievance being filed against the Bengals, he adds.
Notably, Pauline names the Patriots as a team which has inquired about Collins, though New England will surely have competition to add the veteran as at least a depth option up front. All five starting members of the Patriots’ O-line are included on the Week 2 injury report, and tackle was a position facing question marks at the start of the season. As Collins moves closer to full health over time, it will be interesting to see how much of a market he develops for himself.
Signed to a three-year deal in 2022, Collins suffered ACL and MCL tears in late December last year. Those injuries were expected to sideline him to start the season. The longtime Cowboys starter will have a chance at a fresh start now. The Bengals will save more than $7MM in cap space by making this move.
Cincinnati’s Orlando Brown Jr. signing rearranged its tackle corps, sliding three-year starter Jonah Williams to the right side. After a trade request, Williams remained in the fold and opened the season at right tackle. Jackson Carman, who lost the RT position battle with Williams early in training camp, is in place as the team’s swing tackle. This left Collins without a clear role. While teams frequently prioritize O-linemen, a veteran starter is now available. Though, there is the matter of Collins returning from his knee injuries.
Given a three-year, $21MM deal following a Cowboys release, Collins started 15 games for the Bengals last season. A steady run of O-line injuries affected the Bengals significantly in a narrow AFC championship game loss to the Chiefs, which featured three starters — Collins, Williams, guard Alex Cappa — out of commission. Williams and Cappa returned this offseason, but Williams’ injuries were more severe. This will undoubtedly affect his earning potential as a second-time free agent.
Collins, 30, has 86 starts on his resume. While several of those came at guard to start his career, the former LSU standout ended up at right tackle early in his NFL run. The Cowboys gave Collins two extensions, the second a five-year deal worth $50MM, but released him in 2022.
This Bengals transaction should generate some interest from tackle-needy teams, but it remains to be seen how healthy Collins is. Had Collins entered the offseason healthy, he would have resided as a trade candidate for the Bengals, who were not pleased with his work last season. They were not interested in trying Collins at guard following the Brown addition, either. But they moved on early, incurring only a $1.7MM dead-money hit to do so. The Bengals also roster D’Ante Smith, a 2021 fourth-round pick, as a backup tackle option.