La’el Collins

Cowboys Notes: Whitehead, Lewis, Collins

Lucky Whitehead was unfortunately waived by the Cowboys following a case of mistaken identity, but the receiver/special-teamer had run afoul of club rules before, according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link). Whitehead had been accused of being “flighty with the truth,” and was “unaccountable” with the Dallas’ coaching staff. Last year, for instance, Whitehead reportedly slept through a Saturday walkthrough and was left home for a game against the Giants. While Whitehead certainly could have had his issues off the field, it’s also possible the Cowboys are leaking negative information on Whitehead given that it was their lack of follow-up that resulted in Whitehead’s release.

Here’s more on Whitehead and the rest of the Cowboys’ roster:

  • The NFLPA is conducting an investigation into Whitehead’s ouster and before it decides whether to take further action, as Ed Werder tweets. Whitehead, for his part, is understandably angry about how the situation played out, writes Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “Let’s not sugarcoat anything,” Whitehead said. “I was pretty much being called a liar.” Now on waivers, Whitehead can be claimed by any of the other 31 NFL teams between now and tomorrow.
  • A Michigan jury has found Cowboys third-round corner Jourdan Lewis not guilty on both domestic violence and assault/battery counts, reports Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. Viewed as one of the top slot cornerback prospects in this year’s draft, Lewis fell to the 92nd overall selection following an alleged March altercation with his girlfriend. Now cleared, Lewis should be able to report to camp and compete for sub package snaps.
  • As part of his two-year, $15.4MM extension, offensive lineman La’el Collins will receive a $4MM signing bonus and $9.5MM fully guaranteed overall, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Collins will earn base salaries of $1MM and $4.5MM in 2017 and 2018, respectively. In 2019, Collins’ base salary is $6MM, but can increase to $8.5MM if he plays at least 85% of Dallas’ offensive snaps in each of the next two campaigns, per Archer.
  • Dallas defensive end David Irving offered an explanation for his four-game PED suspension today, blaming the ban on a “hidden ingredient” in a workout drink, per Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News“I started taking it after the season when you’re not working out with the team, you know, something to get my a– in the gym,” said Irving. “It’s funny, I thought I was hitting a second puberty.” Irving, 23, appeared in 15 games for Dallas last season and developed into a serviceable pass rusher, especially near the end of the year. All told, he managed four sacks and 17 tackles while grading as the league’s No. 29 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus
  • Offensive lineman Byron Bell earned his second $150K bonus of the offseason by making weight on the first day of Cowboys training camp, reports Archer. Bell scored the same weight bonus when minicamp began, and will collect a third bonus during the first week of the regular season. Signed to a one-year deal in March, Bell will also earn a $1MM base salary, a $250K signing bonus, and $300K in per-game roster bonuses. The 28-year-old is in contention to serve as the top reserve lineman on one of the league’s best front fives.

Cowboys, La’el Collins Agree To Extension

The Cowboys and offensive lineman La’el Collins have reached agreement on a new deal. It’s a two-year, $15.4MM extension that will keep him in place through the 2019 season, a source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). La'el Collins (vertical)

Collins would have been a restricted free agent following the 2017 season. With the new contract, Collins has traded in that one RFA year plus his first year of scheduled unrestricted free agency. The Cowboys theoretically could have controlled Collins through the 2019 season with the franchise tag, but by extending him now, they have given themselves cost certainty while leaving the tag available for another star player.

The new deal gives Collins a $7.7MM average annual salary in the additional two seasons, which currently would represent the second-highest AAV of any right tackle in the NFL.

Collins was expected to be a first round pick and potential top ten pick in the 2015 draft. However, he went undrafted after he was linked to the shooting death of a pregnant woman and his agent that he would hold out if he were selected beyond the third round. Once he was cleared of any wrongdoing, he signed with the Cowboys on a modest three-year contract worth roughly $1.6MM. Collins’ new contract will him like a first round pick and reflects the tremendous production he has provided at the professional level.

Collins excelled at left guard as a rookie and was slated to hold down the position again in 2016 before a foot injury ended his season after three games. This year, the 6’5″ lineman will be shifting over to right tackle. It’s a return to Collins’ roots as he started at left tackle for LSU in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: OBJ, Rodgers, E. Decker, Lions

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday morning that Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been away from OTAs because he wants a new contract. That isn’t the case, according to The Record’s Art Stapleton, as a source told him that Beckham’s absence amounts to nothing more than a player exercising his right to skip voluntary workouts. Regardless of where the truth lies, the Giants are motivated to keep the 24-year-old superstar for the long haul. Contract negotiations haven’t begun yet, co-owner John Mara revealed Tuesday, but he added, “Obviously we want him to be a Giant for the rest of his career.”

More from the NFC:

  • Even though he has fallen to fifth among quarterbacks in average yearly salary ($20MM), the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers isn’t pushing for a raise. At the same time, the 33-year-old realizes a contract extension might be around the corner. “Well, that stuff usually takes care of itself, and I have a fantastic agent, he does a great job. He worries about that stuff,” Rodgers said Tuesday (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). “When it comes to setting the market values, I let that stuff take care of itself. I know my value in this league, and I know the team appreciates me. I’m going to continue to make myself an indispensable part of this roster. When you do that, when your time comes up to get a contract, you usually get a contract extension.” With his deal on track to expire after the 2019 season, extension talks between the Packers and Rodgers could begin soon, observes the Associated Press, which notes that cap room won’t be an issue for the club when it comes to locking up the two-time MVP.
  • With Eric Decker‘s Jets tenure on the verge of ending, the Lions would be wise to add the receiver, opines Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. Decker’s history of quality production would continue as part of Detroit’s Matthew Stafford-led offense, argues Rothstein, who points out that Decker is familiar with coordinator Jim Bob Cooter from their time together in Denver in 2013. Further, given that the Lions only found the end zone 54.2 percent of the time in the red zone last year, acquiring the tall, touchdown-scoring Decker would be a boon. Of course, the Lions might have to win a bidding war for Decker, which isn’t a guarantee considering they’re toward the bottom of the league in cap space (just over $9MM).
  • With La’el Collins moving from left guard to right tackle, the Cowboys will need someone to take over his previous position. That could be tackle Chaz Green, who has been working as the Cowboys’ first-team left guard during OTAs, according to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. Green, whom injuries have limited to four appearances in two seasons, told George that the Cowboys approached him about changing positions last week. The 2015 third-round pick is embracing the move, saying: “It’s an opportunity with the ones [first team]. I don’t care where I am. I just want to put my best foot forward and show that I cannot drop off when I’m out there and better yet help the team when I’m out there.”

NFC Notes: Hawks, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys

ESPN’s Seth Wickersham reported Thursday that Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has been holding a grudge against both quarterback Russell Wilson and head coach Pete Caroll since the team’s devastating Super Bowl XLIX loss to the Patriots in 2015. But Sherman and defensive end Michael Bennett insist that’s not true (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com). “It’s just a bunch of nonsense from ‘anonymous’ sources. Can never put much gravity of things like that,” said Sherman, who, according to Wickersham, “allowed himself to imagine playing for the Cowboys” when Seattle placed him on the trade block earlier this spring. Bennett, meanwhile, dismissed the article as “trash” and “all gossip.”

The latest from the NFC East…

  • In an interview with 105.1 FM in New York on Thursday, now-Bears wide receiver Victor Cruz implied that the Giants didn’t involve him in their offense more last year because they knew they’d release him in the offseason (per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY). “Halfway through the year, you’re like, ‘OK, I’m balling,’ and then the other half I’m not getting the ball,” he said. “And you’re just like, ‘What’s going on?’ It was like, ‘OK, I see what’s happening. They don’t want me here anymore.’” Continued Cruz, who caught 39 of 72 targets in 2016: “If I played well, they owed me a ton of money that next year. So it was like, ‘let’s get Cruz off the books.'” Unsurprisingly, head coach Ben McAdoo refuted Cruz’s claims, telling reporters that “there is no accuracy” to the wideout’s theory (via Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today).
  • Cutting receiver Nelson Agholor would cost the Eagles more money than they’d save ($4.68MM versus $2.56MM), but his roster spot nonetheless looks to be in jeopardy, writes Andrew Kulp of CSNPhilly.com. Philadelphia signed two proven receivers in March, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, to join Jordan Matthews, which could further marginalize Agholor. A first-round pick just two years ago, Agholor caught only 59 of 114 targets and three touchdowns from 2015-16.
  • It continues to look as though Cowboys offensive lineman La’el Collins will move to right tackle after functioning as a left guard during his first two seasons. Collins has lined up solely at right tackle during organized team activities this week and will likely continue to do so leading up to the season, according to Kate Hairopoulos and Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. The position opened up in Dallas when starter Doug Free retired earlier this offseason, and if Collins fills it, either Jonathan Cooper or Emmett Cleary could take over at left guard, per Hairopoulos and George.

Cowboys To Move La’el Collins To RT?

Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones said multiple times this offseason La’el Collins was an option at right tackle for the Cowboys, and the third-year player may be ready to make a move outside. Collins said, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (on Twitter) he has worked mostly at right tackle for the Cowboys this offseason.

Jones said last month that Collins, who has been the primary starter at left guard when healthy during his career, could be used out there in an emergency. But thus far, Collins has worked “solely” at right tackle, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter). Cowboys coaches told Collins to get ready for work at right tackle, according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter).

I’ll be real clear here, our first preference … is to have him play guard,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News, last month. “But we also know that if there’s a guy on our team who might have that flexibility to move out to tackle, then he certainly has that skill set.”

Collins was a full-time starter at left tackle at LSU during the 2013 and ’14 seasons, moving out there after playing at left guard for the Tigers in 2012. With the Cowboys, Collins usurped the since-departed Ronald Leary at left guard as a rookie in 2015 and began last season there. However, a foot injury ended Collins’ season after just three games. Leary also performed better after reclaiming the job. Collins did not come off Dallas’ IR after rumors pointed to that being in play.

The Cowboys obviously will have a change at right tackle after longtime starter Doug Free opted to retire. They signed Byron Bell in the offseason and still have 2015 third-round pick Chaz Green on the roster. Inside, Dallas houses Joe Looney and Jonathan Cooper. The Cowboys re-signed the former top-10 pick to a one-year deal in March.

It’s possible the team is simply preparing the 23-year-old Collins for work at tackle should a situation arise, but there’s a lot to suggest a relocation may be coming for the 6-foot-5 lineman. A position switch would be notable on arguably the game’s premier offensive line, particularly after the Cowboys lost two starters this offseason. Due to his UDFA background, Collins is also entering a contract year, making positional versatility a potential boon to his value.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Collins, Eagles

The Cowboys are leaning toward activating left guard La’el Collins from injured reserve instead of rookie defensive end Charles Tapper, Brandon George of the Dallas News writes. No final decision has been made, however. Collins was meant to be the Cowboys’ starting left guard this year, but he has been out since Week 3 with a toe injury and was forced to undergo surgery. Fortunately, Dallas has been able to lean on Ronald Leary in his absence.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

Extra Points: Gronk, Cowboys, Draft, Lions

The Patriots and the family of Rob Gronkowski confirmed in a statement Thursday that the tight end will undergo back surgery Friday. The hope earlier Thursday was that Gronkowski would return during the playoffs, but that’s now in doubt. “We do not expect that he will be able to play for the remainder of the 2016 season, but will await the results of tomorrow’s surgery before making a final determination,” said the two parties (Twitter link).

More from around the NFL:

  • The Cowboys expect second-year guard La’el Collins back in late December or in time for the playoffs, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Collins has been on injured reserve since tearing a ligament in his right big toe in Week 3. Replacement Ronald Leary has been excellent as a fill-in, with Pro Football Focus ranking him 16th out of 80 qualifying guards this year.
  • If Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers goes the expected route and enters next year’s draft, he’ll be a top-10 pick, two NFL teams told Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (video link). Peppers would likely line up at safety in the pros, says Miller, who likens his playing style to that of Giants star Landon Collins.
  • Both Missouri junior defensive end Charles Harris and Akron junior wide receiver Jerome Lane Jr. will enter the draft (links via Chase Goodbread of NFL.com and Zac Jackson of Pro Football Talk). Harris, who has amassed 30.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks since 2015, has a first-round projection from NFLDraftScout.com. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Lane is a former linebacker who registered 62 catches, 1,018 yards and six touchdowns in 2016.
  • The NFL is reportedly progressing toward introducing a developmental league, but Saints head coach Sean Payton is against the idea. “I’m not in favor of the developmental league. I think you’re going to see an increased number of practice squad players,” he told Nick Underhill of The Advocate (Twitter link).
  • The Lions worked out linebacker Myke Tavarres on Thursday, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets. The undrafted free agent from Incarnate Word has been out of work since failing to make the Eagles’ final roster Sept. 3.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Cowboys G La’el Collins To Have Surgery

Cowboys left guard La’el Collins will undergo toe surgery today to repair a ligament tear in his right big toe and will be placed on injured reserve, according to sources who spoke with Todd Archer of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Dallas was hoping that Collins would not require surgery, but it was determined to be the best course of action after meeting with three different specialists, as Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweetsLa'el Collins (vertical)

Previous reports indicated that surgery would mean up to a 12-week absence for the second-year lineman. After the surgery is performed, we should have a better idea of Collins’ timetable. Under the league’s new IR rules for 2016, Collins could theoretically return to practice after six weeks and play in eight weeks. Teams may only bring one player back from IR each season, however.

Since Collins went down earlier this year, Ronald Leary has replaced him in the starting lineup. Leary wanted out of Dallas this offseason, but the Cowboys are glad they held on to him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Holding Off On La’el Collins’ Surgery

Despite already relocating him to their IR list, the Cowboys are not planning for La’el Collins to have surgery to repair a torn toe ligament in the near future. Instead, the team will wait for multiple weeks to see if the ligament can heal on its own, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports (on Twitter).

Per the second-year guard, via Hill (on Twitter), multiple specialists are set to examine the injury. He will continue to receive treatment in the meantime. Currently outfitted with a walking boot, Collins hopes the injury will heal on its own, Hill tweets.

Collins must miss a minimum of six weeks of practice and eight weeks’ worth of Cowboys games. So, regardless of the team’s course of action with its talented young blocker, Collins will be out until at least late November. Should he undergo surgery, Collins could be sidelined up to 12 weeks, per David Moore of the Dallas Morning News.

The Cowboys are incredibly well-prepared to handle a loss at this particular position, with former starter Ronald Leary ready to rejoin a group with which he’s quite familiar. He will man the left guard spot until Collins comes back, but considering the impending free agent’s experience and the fluid nature of Collins’ recovery, it might not be a lock the starter reclaims his job late in the season.

Pro Football Focus bestowed its second-worst grade — among full-time guards — on Collins this season for the 186 snaps he’s logged. Football Outsiders ranks Dallas’ offensive front 11th through three games. It ranked sixth in 2015 and first in ’14. Leary started 35 games between 2013-15.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys To Place La’El Collins On IR

7:24pm: Collins’ recovery timeline actually hovers between 10-12 weeks, per David Moore of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter). The surgery on the 23-year-old guard’s big toe is expected to shelve him until December.

7:17pm: La’El Collins‘ toe injury sustained Sunday night will send him to IR, according to Zac Jackson of Pro Football Talk. The second-year guard suffered a torn toe ligament against the Bears and will miss 8-10 games, after which the Cowboys could bring him back.

The Cowboys can activate one player from IR this season. Tony Romo remains on the team’s active roster, so his timetable would not interfere with a potential Collins return.

It’s a blow to a Cowboys offensive line coming off a strong performance, but the team has depth after keeping Ronald Leary on its roster despite trade rumors surrounding the backup guard throughout the offseason. A surprise UDFA who was pegged to go off the 2015 draft board in the first round before being connected with a murder investigation, Collins seized the starting left guard job from Leary after five games last season.

The Cowboys declined to trade Leary earlier this offseason, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Now, having the veteran as a swing lineman could be crucial since he’ll slip back into his former position in about as seamless of a transition as could be for a team that just lost a promising blocker.

Leary, though, started 35 games between 2013-15 and was part of the line that sprung DeMarco Murray to the 2014 rushing title. He’s a free agent after the season and, after wanting to go elsewhere to showcase his abilities, the fifth-year player will have a chance to do so in Dallas while Collins recovers.

Dallas was without Tyron Smith as well Sunday night, but the left tackle stalwart’s injury is not believed to be nearly as serious as Collins despite his missing the Chicago tilt.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.