The Jamal Adams trade rumors are selling like hot cakes and our beloved Dallas Cowboys are right in the thick of things. Speaking of pancakes, guess which delectable menu item the New York Jets are now hungry for? That’s right - La’el Collins.
This time a year ago, fans would’ve jumped at the opportunity to land the Jets star safety for Collins. Of course, one of the big reasons for that was many of us believed Collins was playing his last season as a member of the Cowboys. On the last year of a two-year, $15 million extension he signed in 2017, nobody really believed the Cowboys would throw additional money at yet another offensive lineman after already investing in big, long-term deals for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick.
And even more fuel was added to this narrative when the team drafted guard Connor McGovern in the third round, creating this idea that Connor Williams would be the team’s right tackle of the future. As we quickly learned, that wasn’t the plan the Cowboys had all along as last offseason the front office signed Collins to his second contract extension, this time worth $50 million adding on another five years.
At the time, the move seemed like a head-scratcher as the Cowboys were proactive with LC, meanwhile they had some higher profile players like say, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper, all of whom were also seeking long-term deals. Zeke and Cooper have since been re-signed and Prescott’s is coming shortly.
Fast forward a year later and Collins has now emerged as one of the best right tackles in the game. Pro Football Focus had the Cowboys with the second best tackle duo in the league, thanks largely to LC’s strong performance last season.
Collins’ 2019 campaign qualified as a breakthrough in his career. Prior to this past season, Collins had reached a career-high PFF grade of 72.5 in 2018, but that number jumped all the way up to 86.0 in 2019 — ranking fourth in the entire NFL behind Ramczyk, Lane Johnson and Ronnie Stanley. Though he did improve as a pass protector this past season, raising his pass-blocking grade to a career-high mark of 75.2, it was really in the run game where Collins had the most impact (88.6 run-blocking grade in 2019). On tape, you see more of Collins’ defenders on the turf than most offensive linemen, and he does a good job of working up to the second level. It may have taken a few years, but Collins’ talent is starting to result in high-level play at right tackle.
Just like that, Collins’ new contract looks like one of the biggest bargains in football. And it could be this bargain that has the Jets now interested is acquiring a quality talent at a big position of need.
The initial reaction to this type of trade is - no thanks. Having Adams would be nice, but keeping Dak Prescott upright is the team’s utmost priority. We’ve seen the destructive result when the offensive line cannot properly protect him.
Looking deeper in all this reveals the Cowboys have some intriguing options at the tackle position. Connor Williams could still be in play at tackle as the McGovern switcheroo remains a possibility. There are also some other factors. Brandon Knight played well last season, Cam Erving was signed in free agency, and then there’s UDFA Mitch Hyatt that could be still be a diamond in the rough. Is it possible the Cowboys have a surplus of talent at the tackle position?
While those are all possibilities, that’s too much uncertainty for a position as important as right tackle. No longer having to give up a first-round draft pick to land Adams is appealing, but it just feels too risky to give up a sure thing like Collins.
The nail in the coffin of the Collins trade idea could be in the details of that glorious contract of his. While the Cowboys have some nice cap-friendly totals on the books in upcoming seasons that the Jets would love to inherit, Dallas has a lot of bonus/restructure money already committed to him that must be accounted for. The Cowboys are on the hook for this and it would come with a huge dead money hit should the team trade him away (cap figures courtesy of spotrac).
When you factor in that wasted dead money hit combined with the extra cost it would take to sign Adams to an extension, this becomes quite the costly endeavor.
After more consideration, this possible trade went from no...to no...to, still no. Instead of dealing away an important piece of this team like Collins, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the great front office work Stephen Jones and company did last offseason locking him down for the next several years.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.