September 26th, 2021 at 10:24am CST by Zachary Links
The NFL believes that Cowboys right tackle La’el Collins attempted to bribe the league’s drug-test collector, according to sources who spoke with Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. This would help to explain Collins’ recent five-game ban.
Collins reportedly did not test positive between October 21, 2020 and August 11, 2021. However, he’s missed seven tests along the way. The player’s camp claims that many of those missed tests were due to the pandemic, but attempted bribery is a different matter.
Schefter adds that the NFLPA helped to negotiate a reduction of the suspension, lowering it from five games to two. Instead, Collins filed an appeal and lost. The arbitrator reinstated the full five-game ban, which means that he’ll be out until Week 8, following the Cowboys’ bye. Collins has filed yet another appeal, but it’s believed to be something of a longshot.
All of those game checks will cost Collins approximately $2MM while also canceling next year’s $6.5MM injury guarantee. In the meantime, the rest of the 1-1 Cowboys are set to face the Eagles on Monday night in Dallas.
September 12th, 2021 at 7:44am CST by Sam Robinson
Sep. 12: Collins is still fighting his suspension and is hopeful that the ban will be lifted or reduced, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes. Per La Canfora, Collins has been drug tested about 10 times per months for the last 18 months, and he did not test positive between October 21, 2020 and August 11, 2021.
However, as previous reports indicated, Collins’ suspension stems from missed tests, not positive test results. La Canfora says Collins has failed to appear for testing seven times, but Collins and his agent argue that there are good explanations for those missed tests. For instance, some of the testing dates were on days that the Cowboys sent players home due to a COVID-related issue.
At this point, Dallas can only hope that Collins and his reps will be able to convince the league to change its mind.
Sep. 10: A day after he returned for his first game since the 2019 season, La’el Collins received word he will be sidelined for a while. The NFL handed the longtime Cowboys right tackle a five-game suspension Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
Collins came back from a preseason neck injury to start against the Buccaneers, marking his return after a hip injury sidelined him throughout the 2020 season. But the seventh-year veteran will now be sidelined until Week 8, with Dallas’ bye coming in Week 7. Collins violated the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.
A missed drug test, or multiple missed tests, resulted in the ban, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. This Friday announcement has irked Collins’ reps, who believed the appeal process had not yet concluded, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk tweets. However, the NFL and the Cowboys announcing the ban will result in Collins missing nearly a third of the season. Collins’ team continues its appeal effort, ESPN.com’s Ed Werder notes (on Twitter), though it does not appear it will succeed.
This will be familiar territory for the Cowboys, who needed to use backup tackles for most of last season. UDFAs manned Dallas’ O-line edges for much of the 2020 slate, with Tyron Smith also missing 14 games due to injury. Both Smith and Collins were back at their posts Thursday night, and the Cowboys’ passing attack reignited with the outside blockers and Dak Prescott on the field again. The team will need to adjust, however.
Dallas added veteran swing tackle Ty Nsekhe this offseason and still rosters primary 2020 right tackle starter Terence Steele. Fellow 2020 emergency starter Brandon Knight is on Dallas’ reserve/COVID-19 list, joining All-Pro guard Zack Martin.
Injuries have been a fairly steady presence during La’el Collins‘ NFL career. Although Collins missed only one game from 2017-19, the Cowboys’ right tackle starter missed most of 2016 and all of last season. He is in jeopardy of missing the start of this year’s Dallas slate.
Collins has been out of practice since last week due to a neck issue, and Mike McCarthy expressed uncertainty regarding the talented blocker’s Week 1 status. Collins is in a “holding pattern” with his latest injury, per McCarthy.
The seventh-year lineman has fully recovered from the hip injury that knocked him out of the 2020 season, but the prospect of a backup Cowboys right tackle facing the Buccaneers is firmly in play because of what the Cowboys have called a neck stinger. Should Collins be unable to go, McCarthy said either free agent acquisition Ty Nsekhe or holdover Terence Steele would start, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (on Twitter).
It would seem Nsekhe would receive the call, having signed to help the Cowboys at swing tackle after the team lost Collins before last season and Tyron Smith early in that disappointing campaign. Nsekhe, however, will turn 36 this season. Dallas signed the former Washington and Buffalo spot starter to a one-year, $1.75MM deal ($500K guaranteed); Steele is a second-year UDFA who graded as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-worst full-time tackle last season. Steele worked as Collins’ primary fill-in in 2020, starting 14 games.
Collins, 28, ended the 2019 season as one of the league’s top right tackles, having experienced a run of good health after missing 13 games in 2016 due to a toe malady. The Cowboys have given Collins two extensions, the most recent being a five-year, $50MM re-up in 2019. With Smith having not surpassed 13 games played since the 2015 season, the Cowboys are counting on Collins to return to full strength soon.
The Cowboys’ offensive line declined sharply in 2020 due to injuries, and a large part of that was La’el Collins missing the entire season after undergoing hip surgery.
Fortunately it seems like his recovery has been going smoothly, and the starting tackle recently pulled back the curtain on that process and what led to the surgery for Jonny Auping of the team’s official site. “It was something that had been lingering for a while,” Collins revealed of his hip issues. “I couldn’t get down to what was going on. I kept working on it and it came down to the point where something had to be done.”
“It was tough,” he continued. “I kept going back and forth with myself. If I had to get the surgery done I was going to have to miss the season. It wasn’t something I was looking forward to at all. But it was something that had to be done. Now, I feel good. And I’m ready to rock.”
“To be honest with you, I’m just starting to feel like myself,” Collins said before adding that “all the hard work is definitely paying off.” The big fella said he’s doing pretty much everything at OTAs, although the team is being cautious and limiting him when he competes directly against defenders.
Before missing all of 2020 Collins had been quite reliable, starting at least 15 games in each of the previous three seasons. An UDFA out of LSU in 2015, Collins turned into a great find for the Cowboys.
He signed a five-year, $50MM extension with the team just before the start of the 2019 season. In an effort to ensure his health moving forward, Collins also said he’s lost some weight. Auping writes that “he currently weighs 313 pounds, which would be the lowest he’s ever played at.”
He was listed at 323 last season. No matter what weight he’s playing at, his return will be a big boost for Dak Prescott as he makes a comeback of his own.
March 10th, 2021 at 5:51pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
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.
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.
September 30th, 2020 at 1:33pm CST by Zachary Links
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.
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.
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.
AmariCooper 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 JulioJones’ $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 DakPrescott 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 ByronJones 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 EzekielElliott and offensive tackle La’el Collins earlier today.
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.