La'el Collins

Contract Restructures: Panthers, Cowboys, Giants, Saints, Eagles, Steelers

It’s that time of year when teams are frantically maneuvering ahead of free agency. Due to the cap falling because of COVID-19, things are even more hectic than ever. We’ve seen a whole bunch of contract restructures come in, and there will be a whole lot more. Let’s catch you up on the latest batch and their financial implications:

  • The Panthers restructured Christian McCaffrey‘s contract recently, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network tweets. They converted $7MM of his $8MM base salary into a signing bonus, which freed up about $5.6MM in cap space for 2021. Almost a year ago McCaffrey signed his record-breaking extension that has him locked up through the 2025 season.
  • The Cowboys have had a busy week with Dak Prescott‘s massive extension now in the books, and they made a trio of moves to help clear some space. Dallas restructured the deals of Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, and La’el Collins, a source told Todd Archer of ESPN.com. The reworking of the three offensive linemen’s contracts cleared up about $17MM in cap space for Jerry Jones. As Archer notes, these moves have now gotten Dallas under the cap for 2021.
  • The Giants just cut top offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler as they look to clear cap space to keep guys like defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson. The Zeitler release isn’t the only shuffling they’re doing, as they also restructured the contract of tight end Levine Toilolo, and Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com tweeted the details. Rather than a procedural restructure like you see with star players, Toilolo actually took a pay-cut to stay with the team. He had been scheduled to make $2.95MM this year but agreed to reduce that to $1.6MM, saving the Giants north of $1MM against the cap.
  • We’ve got four other restructures to pass along, courtesy of this tweet from Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The Saints restructured the deals of safety Malcolm Jenkins to save $3.4MM and offensive lineman Andrus Peat to save $6MM. New Orleans has the worst cap situation in the league, and they desperately needed moves like this to do things like franchise tag safety Marcus Williams.
  • The Eagles saved $2.4MM by reworking the deal of offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo. Philly is right up there with New Orleans in terms of bad cap situations, so GM Howie Roseman is likely far from done here.
  • The Steelers saved $880K by adjusting fullback Derek Watt‘s contract. Not exactly front page news here, but it should shore up Watt’s spot on the 2021 roster. T.J. and J.J.’s brother signed a three-year, $9.75MM pact last offseason.

Cowboys RT La’el Collins Out For Season

La’el Collins will, in fact, undergo season-ending surgery on his bothersome hip, Jane Slater of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).

This loomed as a possibility for the Cowboys right tackle, but now that the veteran blocker will proceed with the operation, it represents a major blow to a team that has struggled on the injury front thus far. Collins will go under the knife Wednesday, Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News tweets.

The Cowboys’ hopes he would recover with rest and treatment failed, with the sixth-year offensive lineman still in considerable pain. Collins has not played this season and will remain on Dallas’ IR list the rest of the way. This will mark the second time Collins will have been shut down early in a season. A toe malady ended Collins’ 2016 season after three games. Between 2017-19, the Round 1 talented-turned-UDFA started 47 of the Cowboys’ 48 regular-season games.

Dallas has been without Collins and All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith for the past two games. However, Smith is expected to return against the Browns on Sunday. The Cowboys will then have to decide on one of their UDFA backups — Terence Steele or Brandon Knight — to start opposite Smith, per Ed Werder of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Cowboys moved Zack Martin to right tackle on Sunday, but it appears the team will keep the All-Pro guard at his more familiar spot — at least to start the game against Cleveland. Pro Football Focus has graded Knight ahead of Steele thus far, though neither have made a particularly strong impression. The Seahawks’ maligned pass rush made a late impact to swing the teams’ Week 3 shootout.

Although Collins signed a second Cowboys extension last year, this will stunt his on-field momentum. The former guard emerged as one of the better right tackles in football last season. He will have to wait until 2021 to build on that.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Cowboys’ La’el Collins

Cowboys right tackle La’el Collins could be done for the year. Collins is still working towards a return, but contact during offensive line drills have proven to be a major hurdle for him, Jane Slater of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Season-ending surgery could be in Collins’ future, but all parties are holding off on that option for now.

If it was Week 10 and the team was 0-8 it would be something they would explore,” a team source told Slater. “But, we are still hoping it’s manageable.”

Collins was placed on IR after the September roster deadline, so he’s theoretically eligible to return at any time. But, right now, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be ready for live action anytime soon.

The former LSU standout has become one of the NFL’s better right tackles, doing so after making a mid-career move from the guard spot. Since 2015, Collins has appeared in 62 games (61 starts) as one of Dak Prescott’s trusted protectors. Last year, Collins finished as the fourth-highest graded offensive tackle in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, making his five-year, $50MM deal look like an absolute bargain.

Without Collins up front, the Cowboys were held to just 17 points in the season opener against the Rams. Though the offense was sharp enough to top the Falcons in Week 2, they fell 38-31 to the Seahawks on Sunday. This week, they’ll aim for the .500 mark when they face the Browns in Dallas.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys To Place T La’el Collins On IR

The Cowboys will begin the season without starting right tackle La’el Collins. They will place the veteran blocker on IR, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes.

However, the Cowboys did carry Collins over to their active roster after the 3pm cutdown deadline. And because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Collins will not have to miss the usually mandatory eight games. He will be eligible to return after three this season.

Both Collins and Sean Lee appear on Dallas’ active roster, but Lee will also begin the season on this new temporary IR. Collins is battling a hip injury.

The former LSU standout has become one of the NFL’s better right tackles, doing so after making a mid-career move from the guard spot. The Cowboys lost swing tackle Cameron Fleming to the Giants in free agency but signed former Browns and Chiefs backup/spot starter Cameron Erving this offseason.

WR Amari Cooper To Re-Sign With Cowboys

Amari Cooper is about to get paid. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the star wideout intends to re-sign with the Cowboys on a five-year, $100MM deal. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the deal contains a whopping $60MM in guaranteed money.

While Cooper hasn’t necessarily established himself as one of the league’s top-tier receivers, it always seemed like he was heading towards a contract that would pay him $20MM per season. Wideouts of Cooper’s caliber or age rarely reach free agency, so it was clear that the Cowboys would have to come close to Julio Jones’ $22MM-per-year deal. Ultimately, Cooper’s $20MM average annual value will rank second at the position, bumping Michael Thomas‘ $19.25MM-AAV to the third spot.

A number of teams have been loosely connected to Cooper throughout the offseason, but Schefter tweets that one rival was pushing hard for the receiver’s services: the Washington Redskins. As Schefter notes, the Redskins pursued Cooper today and tried “to pry him away” from their divisional rival. The Broncos were also recently mentioned as a potential suitor.

Cooper earned his fourth career Pro Bowl nod following another productive season in 2019. In 16 games, the 25-year-old hauled in 79 catches for a career-high 1,189 receiving yards and a career-high eight receiving touchdowns. Cooper joined the Cowboys midway through the 2018 season following a trade with the Raiders.

Now, the Cowboys can focus on extending Dak Prescott to a new contract. Earlier today, we learned that the organization was placing the exclusive franchise tag on their Pro Bowl quarterback. At the same time, the organization watched as cornerback Byron Jones inked a lucrative deal with the Dolphins. Considering the cap constraints, it’s not surprising that ESPN’s Field Yates reports (via Twitter) that the front office restructured the deals of both running back Ezekiel Elliott and offensive tackle La’el Collins earlier today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Packers, Adams, Cardinals

No surprise here, but Davante Adams will miss another game this week, per the Packers‘ final injury report. This marks the wide receiver’s third-straight missed contest as he rehabs from a toe ailment.

Adams had a strong start to the season with 25 receptions for 378 yards before going down and seemed on his way to matching last year’s 111/1,386 posting. The Packers were able to get past the Lions without him and they’ll aim to do the same against the Raiders.

Here’s the latest on other bumps and bruises from around the NFL:

  • Uh oh – Cardinals running back David Johnson is dealing with a new injury. After tweaking his back against Atlanta, Johnson will be a game time decision thanks to a sore ankle, head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters.
  • The Cowboys will have offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, and cornerback Byron Jones are set to play on Sunday against the Eagles, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com tweets. All five are listed as questionable for the game, but they took the practice field and Friday and should be good to go.
  • The Eagles, on the other hand, will try to fly without: linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle), wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot), cornerback Avonte Maddox (concussion/neck), tackle Jason Peters (knee), and running back Darren Sproles (quadricep).
  • Wide receiver Kenny Stills is set to return on Sunday against the Colts, per the club’s injury report.

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Redskins, Giants

The Cowboys will face a tough test against the Packers on Sunday when they square off against one of the NFL’s best defenses, but a key piece of their offense will be returning just in time. Wide receiver Michael Gallup, who missed Dallas’ previous two games with a knee injury, is expected to play against Green Bay, according to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). A second-year pass-catcher out of Colorado State, Gallup got off to a hot start in 2019, catching 13 passes for 226 yards in the Cowboys’ first two games of the year.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

  • Gallup isn’t the only offensive contributor that will make it onto the field for the Cowboys: right tackle La’el Collins, currently battling a back injury, will play against the Packers, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com reports. While Collins hasn’t missed any game action, he has been absent from practice this week. Left tackle Tyron Smith is expected to miss Dallas’ contest against Green Bay with an ankle issue, so Collins’ presence becomes all the more critical. Veteran backup Cameron Fleming will take over for Smith on the blindside.
  • Injured reserve is not in consideration for Redskins tight end Jordan Reed, head coach Jay Gruden told reporters, including Kareem Copeland of the Washington Post (Twitter link). Reed has suffered a number of concussions throughout his career and is currently dealing with yet another brain injury. Earlier this year, reports indicated that his career could even be in jeopardy given his repeated brain trauma. Reed is not expected to play in Week 5 and there’s no timetable for his return, but Washington apparently isn’t willing to give up his season just yet.
  • A domestic violence complaint and a restraining order against former Giants safety Kamrin Moore were both vacated earlier this year after a judge determined allegations against Moore could not be substantiated, but charges against the now-free agent defender have not yet been dropped, as Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com writes. Moore is adamant he was falsely accused and now believes the Union County prosecutor’s office is delaying the dropping of his charges out of “embarrassment.”

Cowboys, La’el Collins Agree To Deal

The Cowboys and La’el Collins have reached agreement on a brand new five-year extension, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). The new deal will keep Collins under control through the 2024 season. 

It’s a five-year, $50MM add-on that includes $35MM guaranteed, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. That gives Collins the highest guarantee of any right tackle in the NFL. Collins was set to make $8.5MM this year so it’s a six-year, $58.5MM deal in total.

The new deal has been a long time coming, with strong interest on both sides.

“I would love to stay in Dallas my entire career,” Collins said recently. “I love the Cowboys, I love Mr. (Jerry) Jones; I love the Jones family. I love everything about the whole organization and what they’ve done for me as a person and as a player. For me, it’s just all about going out there and taking it one day at a time, and proving myself, proving my worth, showing them that I want to be there by what I do and now what I say.”

Collins ranked as the No. 31 tackle in the NFL last year, per Pro Football Focus, and has looked the part of a top-tier protector at times. Still in his mid-20s, the sky is the limit for the powerful lineman.

The Cowboys have long boasted one of the league’s best offensive lines and they’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that things will stay that way. Not only is Collins inked through 2024 – they’ve also got left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick through 2023 and guard Zack Martin through the 2024 campaign.

The Cowboys’ O-Line has helped turn quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott into superstars. Now, after addressing Collins’ deal, it remains to be seen how they’ll handle new contracts for Prescott, Elliott, and the reborn Amari Cooper.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

La’el Collins Wants To Stay With Cowboys

Cowboys offensive lineman La’el Collins is entering the final season of his contract, but if he has his way, he’ll remain with the club for the foreseeable future, according to Herbie Teope of the Advocate.

“I would love to stay in Dallas my entire career,” Collins said. “I love the Cowboys, I love Mr. (Jerry) Jones; I love the Jones family. I love everything about the whole organization and what they’ve done for me as a person and as a player. For me, it’s just all about going out there and taking it one day at a time, and proving myself, proving my worth, showing them that I want to be there by what I do and now what I say.”

A projected first-round pick in 2015, Collins went undrafted after reports indicated he was scheduled to talk with police about the murder of a pregnant woman with whom he was previously involved. Authorities determined Collins had no involvement in the woman’s death, but he wasn’t selected in the draft after his agents indicated he would sit out the season if he were picked after the third round.

The Cowboys eventually landed Collins as an undrafted free agent. The LSU product spent his first two NFL campaigns at left guard, but moved to right tackle in 2017 after longtime Cowboy Doug Free retired. Because he was undrafted, Collins was eligible for an extension after only two pro seasons, and inked a two-year, $15.4MM deal with Dallas in July 2017.

Collins has managed to stay healthy over the past two seasons, and he’s responded with solid production, ranking as the No. 31 tackle in the NFL last year, per Pro Football Focus. The Cowboys have shown a willingness to extend offensive linemen in the past, as left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick, and right guard Zack Martin have all received hefty new deals in recent seasons.

However, Dallas also a number of other pending free agents — including quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and cornerback Byron Jones — whom it may deem more crucial to the club’s success. If that’s the case, Collins could hit the open market next spring.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Notes: Prescott, Cooper, Elliott, Collins, Smith

The Cowboys are fortunate to have a lot of young talent. But one downside that comes with having a lot of young talent, is that sooner or later you have to pay them all. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper are all looking for extensions, and Dallas is going to have to break the bank. Prescott is likely looking to top what Carson Wentz just got, meaning he’ll demand $30MM-plus annually. Quietly, there have been some rumblings that the team isn’t in any rush to extend Elliott. It makes sense because Elliott has the most time left on his deal, but it’s interesting nonetheless. There’s been a lot of concern about how they’ll fit all three players under the cap, but Calvin Watkins of The Athletic writes that you shouldn’t be concerned.

Talking about those key three as well as safety Byron Jones, Watkins writes that the team is “optimistic they can take care of all of them.” Watkins says that the Cowboys did in fact put Elliott on the back-burner before, but that’s no longer the case. “The team no longer believes they can wait on extending him in 2020,” as he could get too expensive by then, Watkins writes. They’re now going to try to lock him up this summer as well, and Watkins does some of the math that shows they should be able to squeeze them all in. Watkins does admit there could be some possible complications, but everything seems on track for the Cowboys to be able to extend all their guys.

  • While the aforementioned four players can all expect to be taken care of, the same can’t be said of offensive lineman La’el Collins. Watkins writes that Collins “could be one player out the door,” in order to make room for the extensions in future years. Collins “is due for a new contract next spring, but Cowboys officials are expected to let him test free agency,” Watkins reports. The team’s right tackle, Collins has started all 16 games each of the last two seasons, so this would be a big departure. Although he’s been reliable, the team has never seemed too enamored with him, so this isn’t shocking. Collins is still only 25 and will be seeking a massive contract next offseason, and it sounds like he could get priced out of Dallas’ range.
  • In the same piece, Watkins also has some news on linebacker Jaylon Smith. Smith was the 34th overall pick in 2016, and normally a 2016 second-round pick would be scheduled for unrestricted free agency next offseason. But because of language in the CBA, Smith will have only accrued three years of service time once this year is over. Smith, of course, was inactive his entire rookie season due to a serious injury suffered toward the end of his college career. Because of this, Smith will be a restricted free agent next spring. A source told Watkins that “the team is expected to place a second-round tender on him.” That means the Cowboys will be able to match whatever offer Smith gets from a team, and if they let him walk that team would have to give Dallas their second-round pick. Most teams aren’t willing to pay that price, which means the Cowboys will likely get Smith back at a discount next year.
  • In case you missed it, Elliott won’t be suspended by the league.