SEPTEMBER 27: The veteran starter is likely to have another opportunity in the near future. Around 12 teams have reached out to the high-profile free agent, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes, adding that free agency visits should be expected to follow. Collins collected $2.1MM in Bengals injury guarantees in 2023; it will be interesting to see which teams summon him for meetings.
SEPTEMBER 25: La’el Collins has gone from two-time Cowboys extension recipient to Bengals right tackle starter to free agency, becoming unattached after Cincinnati released him from its reserve/PUP list two weeks ago. But it should be expected the seasoned starter finds a new home soon.
ACL and MCL tears ended Collins’ 2022 season on Christmas Eve, and although he was not expected to begin the season on the Bengals’ active roster, the AFC North club made the surprising decision to axe him from the PUP list. While Collins’ readiness level was not known when the Bengals cut him, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reports he has since passed a physical.
Monday marks almost exactly nine months since Collins suffered his ligament tears, which would put him on a smooth track back to action. It would seemingly take the eight-year veteran more time to move back into game form, but Monday’s development should be of interest to teams in need to tackle help. Considering the injuries that pile up at this position annually, Collins could be an interesting piece to help a team in the near future or as a second-half hired gun.
The Bengals gave Collins a three-year, $21MM deal shortly after the Cowboys released him with in March 2022. Collins, 30, brought great value to Dallas, arriving as a first-round-level talent who fell out of the draft due to off-field matters. After a seven-year run as a Cowboys starter, Collins started all 15 games he played as a Bengal. The Bengals lost Collins, fellow 2022 signee Alex Cappa and veteran tackle Jonah Williams to injuries down the stretch, making a key impact on their push to defend their AFC title. This offseason, Cincy changed its tackle plans by signing Orlando Brown Jr. and moving Williams to the right side. That left Collins without a starting job, and the team was not particularly pleased with his pre-injury work.
Collins only has experience at right tackle, moving there from guard in 2017. But he would stand to be an upgrade for some teams at that post. The Patriots are playing without Riley Reiff, Collins’ Cincinnati RT predecessor, while the Jets chose to move Mekhi Becton back to left tackle (and Alijah Vera-Tucker to his emergency RT spot) after Duane Brown‘s injury. (The Patriots are believed to have Collins on their radar.) The Browns lost starter Jack Conklin for the season, while the Seahawks and Texans have their respective starters (Abraham Lucas, Tytus Howard) on IR. The Lions are down multiple tackles, with a potential season-ending Matt Nelson injury coming during Taylor Decker‘s second straight missed game.
Should Collins be ready to return to game action soon, he would represent an experienced option as contenders assemble their stretch-run rosters. While the LSU alum may be on the backend of his career, he has started 86 career games and worked as the primary right tackle for three playoff teams.