The Dallas Cowboys are seeing one of their former players hit the free agency market after the Cincinnati Bengals announced the release of tackle La’el Collins. Collins is available and in an area that Dallas may need some help, but it’s hard to see the Cowboys bringing him back.
The news became official over the NFL roster transaction list on September 12, a bit of a surprise as the veteran tackle started 15 games last year. However, things have gone sour for the former LSU Tiger and he is now a free agent.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys are managing injuries with tackles Tyler Smith and Tyron Smith. It may be tempting to lure Collins back to Arlington, Texas, but the two sides ended on a sour note after Dallas could not find a trade partner for the 30-year-old.
Now, Collins will have to look for another new NFL squad, which will be his third different team over the past three seasons. It’s clear that the tackle still has the ability to play at the NFL level, but where exactly he’ll take his talents is yet to be determined.
Collins’ Time with Dallas
Collins had one of the most bizarre entrances into the NFL in league history, due to his involvement in a police investigation over the shooting death of a pregnant woman who he used to date, per ESPN. Collins was never a suspect in the investigation, but he went undrafted due to threats to sit out his rookie season by his agents, as NBC Sports reported.
Dallas swooped in to sign him as an undrafted free agent, and he quickly became a key cog with 12 starts as a rookie in 2015 according to Pro Football Reference. A ligament tear in his toe forced him out after just three games in 2016, but Collins quickly got back up to speed the following year.
At the beginning of the 2019 season, Collins’ 46 starts and consistent play earned him his first big NFL contract. Dallas handed the former LSU star a 5-year, $50 million contract according to Spotrac.
After a productive 2019 season, a car crash sidelined Collins for the entire 2020 season. That was then followed by the tackle violating the league’s substance abuse policy and missing five games in 2021. The rise of Terence Steele as the Cowboys’ top option at right tackle then put Collins in “no man’s land,” and he was released after the 2021 campaign and failed trade attempts.
Cowboys Committed to Terence Steele
As Collins figures out what’s next, the Cowboys and Terence Steele have committed their long-term futures to each other. Steele was handed a five-year, $82.5 million contract just before the start of the 2023 season as Spotrac shows.
In terms of salary cap hit, the deal is fairly backloaded as he only counts as a $4.3 million cap hit for the 2023 season. However, that number spikes considerably in 2024 as he is set to make a $11 million hit.
Beyond that, Steele’s cap hit jumps even further. From 2025 and onward, the smallest cap hit Steele’s deal will create is a whopping $17 million. That being said, the Cowboys can get out of his deal with little dead money after 2025: after that season, just $6 million of his remaining contract is guaranteed.
Evan Reier is a sports reporter covering the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com. He previously covered sports for the Montana Standard and was a managing editor for Outsider. More about Evan Reier
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