Maliek Collins has started in almost every game the Dallas Cowboys have played since he was drafted in 2016. But the former third-round pick is about to his unrestricted free agency and the signs point to him not getting a new contract from the Cowboys in 2020.
Collins has played in all but three games from 2016-2019 and started 90% of the time. He has been among Dallas' leaders in defensive snap counts every year; as much a fixture on the defensive line as a player can be with Rod Marinelli's rotations.
But now the coaching staff that drafted and groomed Collins is gone. And last year, Dallas used their second-round pick on Trysten Hill in a move that felt very much like preparation for Maliek's departure.
Both Collins and Hill are athletic tackles more suited to pass rushing than stopping the run. They both fit the profile of a “3-technique” DT in the 4-3 scheme.
While Maliek did play the run-stopping “1-tech” role in previous years, that role is now more suitably filled by Antwaun Woods.
Between having Hill and veteran Tyrone Crawford under contract for 2020, Dallas at least has coverage for the 3-tech position. They could even move Woods over if they bring in a bigger body to help stop the run.
However it goes, Collins appears to be the odd man out.
Four years of starting work is a nice return for a third-round draft pick. Not re-signing Maliek isn't by any means saying he was a bust or even an inadequate player. He gave the Cowboys four quality seasons as a starter; far more than they got out of some of their first and second-round picks in past years.
But given the other personnel under contract and the changes in the coaching staff, it's hard to see Dallas making a push to keep Collins going forward. He can likely get more on the open market than they'd want to pay given that they have Hill, Crawford, and Woods as options.
What's more, the Cowboys have a lot of free agents to attend to this year. Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones, Robert Quinn, and Randall Cobb are already an expensive group to take care of in addition to other roster needs.
Given everything, it just feel like Maliek Collins isn't important or irreplaceable enough for this offseason's business. Especially considering that Trysten Hill was drafted to play the same role, Dallas appears to have already accounted for his exit.
Unless the new coaching staff has their own ideas about his value, Maliek is probably looking for a new team in 2020.