Former Cowboys Longtime Starter Could Sign With Bills: Report

Mike McCarthy

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy during a 2023 regular season game.

A former 71-game starter of the Dallas Cowboys could sign with an AFC contender.

Free agent offensive tackle La’el Collins, who started 71 of his 74 appearances with the Cowboys between 2015 and 2021, participated in a workout with the Buffalo Bills on Friday, December 29.

Collins would likely be signed for depth purposes after the Bills released Germain Ifedi on Friday.

How La’el Collins Began Career With Cowboys

The 30-year-old Collins originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent of the Cowboys back in 2015. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound tackle was a highly touted prospect coming out of LSU, garnering Second-Team All-American honors during the 2014 season and First and Second-Team All SEC honors during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Collins was regarded as a first-round pick and a top 10 pick entering the 2015 NFL Draft. However, off-the-field issues involving the shooting death of a pregnant woman he was involved with — Collins was not considered a suspect — along with his agent threatening that Collins wouldn’t play if he was drafted after the third round led to the former highly touted tackle going undrafted.

He would then go on to sign a three-year contract worth $1.6 million with the Cowboys. He would quickly emerge as the starting left guard for Dallas during his rookie season before shifting as the starter at right tackle from 2017 until the end of his tenure with the Cowboys at the end of the 2021 season.

La’el Collins Was Once Considered Elite Right Tackle in Dallas

Although Collins never garnered any Pro Bowl or All-Pro selections during his stint with the Cowboys, he emerged as one of the top-graded offensive linemen. According to Pro Football Focus, Collins posted an 86.4 offensive grade and 89.4 run-blocking grade during the 2019 season. Those grades ranked him fourth in offensive grade and third in run-blocking grade among all starting tackles during that season.

Collins followed up that stellar 2019 campaign with a similarly effective 2021 season, posting an 82.0 offensive grade and 89.8 run-blocking grade. He ranked 13th in offensive grade and fourth in run-blocking grade among all tackles during the 2021 season after missing the entire 2020 campaign due to a neck stinger injury suffered in a car accident.

After being granted permission to seek a trade during the 2022 offseason, Collins was released with three years remaining on his deal. The move was largely made due to cost-cutting measures the Cowboys went through in order to clear up space in their salary cap, as Nick Shook of noted back in March of 2022.

“The move is clearly a cost-cutting one expected to save Dallas $10 million in what logically should be a post-June 1 designation,” wrote Shook. “The move will further assist the Cowboys in getting in a better financial position after trading Amari Cooper (and his $20 million cap number) to Cleveland and using new cap space to extend Demarcus Lawrence and re-sign Michael Gallup.”

Collins would eventually land a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he started all 15 of his appearances at right tackle. However, he suffered a torn ACL and MCL during Week 16 of the 2022 season and was eventually released at the beginning of the 2023 season after being placed on the reserve/PUP list.

During his seven years in the NFL, Collins has started 86 of his 89 career appearances.

Read More