The Cleveland Browns losing OT Jack Conklin to a season-long knee injury in Week 1 will only hurt as much as OT Dawand Jones allows it to.
The Ohio State Buckeyes rookie looked good in the preseason and in his regular season debut in Week 1 but it is far different to hold up week after week in the NFL. There were some differing opinions of Jones’ first game even.
After placing Conklin on injured reserve, the Browns added Michael Dunn to their active roster and signed veteran Ty Nsekhe to the team’s practice squad to help with the offensive line’s needs.
Finding a player who might be able to step in adequately on the offensive line is always difficult in the NFL. Doing so after NFL free agency’s first few days and after the regular season has started is almost impossible.
That being said, OL La’El Collins just hit the free agent market and could be of interest to a number of teams:
The Bengals have released OT La’El Collins from PUP. He’s now a free agent.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 12, 2023
The caveat to that interest is that Collins is recovering from knee surgery from an injury that happened late last year. While there has not been any announcements by the Cincinnati Bengals or Collins’ side, it is likely that the offensive lineman will need more time before he is ready to play.
Since going undrafted in 2015 (despite having 1st or 2nd round grades from most) due to unsubstantiated rumors, Collins has played in 89 games with 86 starts including 15 last year with the Bengals.
According to Pro Football Focus, Collins’ best years came in 2019 and 2021. He missed all of the 2020 season due to hip surgery. His Week 16 injury in 2022 included tearing all three major ligaments (ACL, MCL, PCL) but he was “right on schedule” in April of this year with no pain or setbacks.
For Cincinnati, releasing Collins is primarily a salary cap move:
#Bengals will create about $7.4M in cap space with Collins release. Will also clear $7M from the books in 2024— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) September 12, 2023
With QB Joe Burrow signing on to be the highest-paid player in the league, salary cap space and Mike Brown’s money become something to watch. Given the timing of the release, it is possible that Collins is close to returning and the Bengals didn’t want to risk an injury guaranteeing his salary and cap hit.
If Collins is healthy, a few teams should have interest in him including Cleveland. After losing Conklin, finding a veteran that they can trust at right tackle might be more important than speeding up Jones’ development and risking the offense. GM Andrew Berry has spent the offseason freeing up cap space via contract restructures leading to the Browns having the most space in the NFL by a lot.
Perhaps that extra space will put Cleveland in a position to resolidify their offensive line by signing Collins. A lot rests on the offensive lineman’s health and his salary demands. Both of those are mysteries to the public.
If healthy, would you be in favor of the Browns spending to sign Collins or want them to ride with Jones instead? Join the discussion in the comment section below