That really stamped it: When Lael Collins realized he wanted to sign with the Bengals – The Cincinnati Enquirer

That really stamped it: When Lael Collins realized he wanted to sign with the Bengals – The Cincinnati Enquirer
Uncategorized

Crackers, cupcakes and Joe Burrow’s presence won La’el Collins over on his visit to Cincinnati.

When rumors of the Dallas Cowboys wanting to trade Collins started to swirl a few days before the legal free agency tampering period began last week, the Bengals were one of the first teams attached to Collins’ name as a potential landing spot.

Cincinnati had a need at right tackle and Collins is one of the top players at that position. He also has familiarity with offensive line coach Frank Pollack, who was his position coach in Dallas from 2015-17. And he’s an LSU Tiger.

The fit seemed perfect from the get-go.

Follow our 2022 NFL free agency tracker:Who will the Bengals sign?

Bengals’ fixing the offensive line:What the free agency signings of Alex Cappa and Ted Karras revealed

As days passed and the Bengals filled several other positional needs along the offensive line, the Collins situation awaited.

“There (were) rumblings he could become available,” head coach Zac Taylor said of the process to acquire Collins. “So of course, we talked about it. If he becomes available, would we want to add him? The answer to that is yes. It worked out in our favor.”

The Cowboys released Collins with a post-June 1 cut on March 17 and Collins flew to Cincinnati that night. While Collins was getting into town, Burrow was having dinner with newly signed guard Alex Cappa and center Ted Karras at Jeff Ruby’s. Taylor was also reportedly there as well.

As Burrow got to know his new teammates, he was about to meet one more the next day. After a day of meetings at the team’s facility in downtown Cincinnati, Burrow invited Collins over to his house on Friday night with a spread that included cupcakes and crackers. Collins said being there with Burrow and his new teammates sealed the deal for him.

“I was able to go spend time with those guys – Joe and the rest of the guys,” Collins said. “For me, that really put it over the top. That really stamped it. That really showed me this is where I wanted to be. These are the guys I want to be around. That moment was probably the biggest moment.” 

He felt the love as 10 different Bengals reached out to him to get him to sign with Cincinnati, he said. Collins spent the weekend in the Queen City, with several fans who spotted him at Kenwood Towne Centre asking if he was going to sign with the Bengals. He left with a three-year deal.

“I’m just excited to give these fans what they’ve been looking for: mean, tough, nasty, physical offensive line guy,” Collins said Wednesday. “I’m just excited. I’m just looking forward to it. I can’t wait; I really can’t wait.”

Without playing a snap, Collins immediately upgrades the Bengals’ offensive line. Heading into free agency, the biggest area of weakness for Cincinnati was the right side of the offensive line. The Bengals, led by director of personnel Duke Tobin and Taylor, fixed it within a week of free agency.

The questions regarding Collins aren’t centered around his talent. Ask any NFL personnel evaluator, most would say they would love to have a player of Collins’ caliber at right tackle. Rather, questions surround his ability to stay on the field.

The NFL suspended Collins, who missed five games in 2021 for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. In 2020, he did not play the entire season due to a hip injury that required surgery. He started just 10 games for the Cowboys in 2021.

When asked how eager he is to play every game in a regular season, Collins said it’s at the forefront of his mind, as is trying to win a Super Bowl with his new team.

“That’s the biggest motivation,” Collins said.

After giving up 70 sacks in 20 games on Burrow, the Bengals’ front office showed its franchise quarterback and its fan base Cincinnati is committed to giving this team every resource to win.

And while it’s unknown how he will play in Cincinnati, the Bengals’ quest to acquire Collins shows this franchise understands the window the team currently has with Burrow still on his rookie deal.

The window is now for the Bengals to contend for another Super Bowl. When your soon-to-be starting right tackle explains how he approaches games like this, there’s more reason for optimism.

“When it comes to game day, if you’re in the way, you have to get moved out the way,” Collins said. “That’s just the bottom line. Doesn’t matter who it is, where we’re at, what time we play. That’s the mindset each and every week for me.”