One of the more intriguing contract situations the Dallas Cowboys have right now is with Offensive Tackle La’el Collins. He has one year left on his deal and there are signs that the team is already preparing to lose him in 2020. If that is the expectation, should Dallas trade Collins now before they’d get nothing in return?
La’el is expected to be back as the right tackle in 2019, counting $9.9 million against the salary cap. Dallas could save roughly $8.5 million of that if they traded him to another team; a significant chunk of cap space that could go to some of their other financial goals with Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and other star players.
Since joining Dallas in 2015, Collins has been a solid starter but never emerged as the potential Top-10 talent that some considered him before the draft. The difference between him and a guy like Taco Charlton, though, is that the Cowboys never had to spend a first-round pick to get him.
It’s important to remember La’el’s backstory. Despite being considered a potential first-round draft prospect, he went undrafted because of pending legal matters from a homicide investigation. He was eventually cleared of any involvement after the Cowboys had made him a priority free signing.
This really is one of the underrated moves of the last five years in Dallas’ roster management. Collins has gone on to start 46 games over the last four seasons, with the full 16 in each of the last two. It was a no-risk situation for the Cowboys, and they have reaped bountifully.
But now we’ve come to a bit of an impasse. The Cowboys can’t pay all of their young studs what they deserve, and their recent moves on the offensive line suggest that Collins is about to become a casualty.
By signing swing tackle Cam Fleming through 2020 and drafting Connor McGovern in the third round of the most recent draft, Dallas appears to be preparing for the future.
Whether it’s promoting Fleming to the starting lineup next year, or perhaps using McGovern or Connor Williams at right tackle, the Cowboys have given themselves options. They are likely going to let someone else pay La’el Collins his next big contract.
Some would argue that if the team is already planning to make this Collins’ last season in Dallas, it would be good to go ahead and trade him. Why let him walk next year for nothing?
That makes sense from an asset management perspective, but it means taking a big hit to your talent and depth in 2019. And with the Cowboys pursuing a championship this season, it’s a risk that really isn’t worth the return.
Collins is the best right tackle on the roster for this season. Fleming is a solid backup but not the same player. McGovern is a rookie and could use a year of grooming. Williams spent last year at guard and played left tackle in college.
Consider you never spent a draft pick to acquire La’el Collins, why be terribly concerned about recouping one in his exit?
Remember, there’s still the compensatory draft pick formula. Depending on what other free agent moves Dallas has next year, there’s a good chance that the contract Collins signs with his next team will still bring the Cowboys a solid draft pick. It could be another fourth-rounder like the one we received this year from Anthony Hitchens’ departure.
So no, between your 2019 championship goal and the chance of getting a compensatory pick in 2021, it doesn’t make sense to trade La’el Collins now. Use him while you’ve got him, because he’s definitely your best option at right tackle this year.
Even if the Cowboys lose La’el next year and gets nothing back, they still come away winners in the deal.