Bengals new offensive tackle excited to get to work ‘protecting Joe’ Burrow

La’el Collins joins Cincinnati on three-year deal

Credit: Tony Gutierrez

Credit: Tony Gutierrez

The Cincinnati Bengals locked up their new right tackle and new centerpiece to the offensive line rehaul.

Former Dallas Cowboys right tackle La’el Collins signed with the Bengals, the team announced Sunday, after a lengthy visit that began Thursday and ended with a three-year secured.

Collins was supposed to leave town Saturday or Sunday to visit at least one other team, but the Bengals wouldn’t let him go without a contract in hand. He joins fellow newcomers Ted Karras and Alex Cappa, who signed late last week and fill the center and right guard spots, and Collins will fill the right tackle spot previously held by Riley Reiff. Reiff came on a one-year deal from Minnesota last offseason but suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 14.

“It’s amazing,” Collins said in an interview clip provided by the team. “It’s been a long-time coming. The last two days have been great. I’m just excited about getting the work in here protecting Joe (Burrow). I just talked to him a little while ago. Everybody is excited. This is a great team, a great organization, and I can’t thank Mr. (Mike) Brown, coaches, Coach Zac (Taylor), Coach Frank Pollack), obviously for knowing the type of player I am and believing in me and those guys, being the guys that want to bring that missing piece to the puzzle. So, I’m excited about being part of it.”

The 28-year-old Collins missed five games last year because of a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, but allowed just two sacks in 12 games with 10 starts and only was released by the Cowboys because of salary cap issues.

Despite recording eight penalties, Collins posted a grade of 82.0 from and is capable of producing at a top-10 level relative to other tackles. He ranks fifth among all right tackles in PFF grade since 2019, though he missed all of 2020 because of a hip injury. He played 1,743 snaps in 2019 and 2021.

Collins, a seventh-year veteran originally drafted by the Cowboys in 2015 out of LSU, spent the first three seasons of his career in Dallas working with current Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack. Pollack praised Collins in a press conference Friday announcing other free agent signings.

“I had a great relationship with L.C.,” Pollack told reporters. “Love him to death. He definitely fits the mold of a glass-eater. Watch his tape, that’s clearly evident. He is nasty and he was a lot of fun to coach. So we’ll see with all that stuff.”

Collins said it just “felt like the perfect fit” with the Bengals, having that previous connection with Pollack and knowing it was an organization that was going to value him as someone that could protect their quarterback.

With the addition of Collins, Karras and Cappa, the Bengals could have one of the most improved offensive lines in the league after ranking 30th in pass-blocking grade last season while Burrow took 70 sacks over 20 games played. Burrow suffered right knee injuries, a throat contusion and a dislocated right pinky last season in his return from December 2020 ACL/MCL surgery on his left knee, but still managed to help the team to its first Super Bowl since 1988.

The franchise quarterback was a big part of the recruiting process with Collins, as he reportedly had Collins, Karras, Cappa and new tight end Hayden Hurst and their girlfriends/wives over to his house Friday night.

Collins said he told Burrow after he signed, “Your new bodyguard is in town, nobody is touching you.”

“I’m just looking forward to getting in the locker room with the guys and showing them the type of person I am, the type of teammate I’m going to be and just earning the trust and respect of these guys that have been here before me,” Collins added. “And obviously wearing the legendary No. 71, representing one of the best, Willie Anderson, all-time great, so I’m just excited to carry that torch.”

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