Oct 5, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Anthon
Collins (73) against New Orleans Saints outside linebackerJunior Galette
(93) during the second quarter of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Bengals had two key off-season free agents this past summer, one of which was offensive tackle Anthony Collins. Rather than attempt to re-sign their key reserve, the Bengals chose to allow Collins to leave, which resulted in his signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ironically along with other key free agent Michael Johnson). Now with Andre Smith out for the season, the question must be asked, should the Bengals have re-signed their former reserve swing-tackle extraordinaire?
Recently the Bengals have undertaken the project of finding the best fit at right tackle since Smith went out with a season-ending torn tricep. They originally put in swing tackle Marshall Newhouse, who performed admirably against J.J. Watt, no easy task. But in previous games when Smith was out with a concussion, Newhouse struggled. During this same game, the Bengals also used Clint Boling at right tackle for a handful of snaps when Newhouse left the game after getting poked in the eye.
NFLPA President Eric Winston was signed recently to provide the Bengals with another option at RT. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Following the Buccaneers game, the Bengals also chose to sign veteran right tackle Eric Winston. His signing gives the Bengals another option at right tackle and, at least, bolsters the offensive line’s depth. The decision to sign Winston indicates the Bengals are undecided with what to do at the position. This wasn’t the scenario when the Bengals suffered an injury within the offensive line last year.
Anthony Collins stepped in and played remarkably well when Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, or Clint Boling went down with an injury last year. In their stead, Collins performed remarkably well. He didn’t allow a sack on the year and allowed minimal pressure, which earned him the best pass blocking efficiency grade from Pro Football Focus.
This type of performance earned Anthony Collins a well-deserved raise and the opportunity to start once he signed a 5 year/$30 million deal with the Buccaneers. Initially, this looks like the type of contract that the Bengals couldn’t have afforded with so many key players to re-sign at the time; amongst these players to be re-signed were Andy Dalton, Vontaze Burfict, and A.J. Green.
But when taking a deeper look at Anthony Collins’ deal, it seems the Bengals likely could’ve afforded to retain him. Collins’ deal only guarantees him $9 million, which is set to be paid out in the first two years of his deal ($6 million in 2014 and $3 million in 2015). This means the Bengals could’ve cut him following the 2015 season without repercussion, which would’ve given them potentially necessary flexibility considering the players they will be looking to re-sign prior to the 2016 season, i.e. A.J. Green, Andre Smith, and Kevin Zeitler just to name a few. But in the meantime, it seems the Bengals could’ve afforded his contract this season and next.
The Bengals currently have over $13.5 million in cap space according to the NFLPA report as of 12/5/14. This would’ve been more than enough to absorb Collins’ $6 million salary this year. As for next year, the Bengals likely could’ve afford his $6 million salary (or at least the $3 million in dead money if forced to cut Collins) due to the NFL’s presumed salary cap rise in 2015, which should raise the cap to at least to $140 million. Anthony Collins’ retention would’ve been possible and could’ve helped the Bengals deal with Andre Smith’s injury.
Yet despite all this, the Bengals chose not to sign their former star reserve. The decision has been questioned by fans since the off-season and especially since Smith went down with a concussion a few weeks ago. But this decision wasn’t necessarily the wrong one either.
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Thus far this season, it seems Anthony Collins hasn’t exactly lived up to the standard he set last year for himself. Collins is amongst the league’s leaders in penalties at nine. Each of these penalties cost his team valuable yards and likely stalled drives. This statistic may have contributed to an ESPN article that recently listed Collins as “one of the worst off-season moves” this year (interestingly along with Michael Johnson who’s undoubtedly underperformed this year). To be fair, the Buccaneers’ offensive game planning and overall talent could have something to do with this, but regardless, it doesn’t shine brightly upon Collins.
More importantly with respect to the Bengals, their offensive game plan was changing also heading into this season. Anthony Collins thrives as a pass blocker, which is an aspect of the offense the Bengals have de-emphasized. Hue Jackson made it clear he was looking to take pressure off of Andy Dalton by running the ball more and looking to get the ball out of his hands quickly. The Bengals have done both. Had Collins stayed with the Bengals, there’s little proof that he would’ve thrived in this new system which runs directly counter to his strengths.
The Bengals cap space was clearly such that Collins’ retention was very possible. But their decision to move on from him is looking like the right one despite the untimely injury to Andre Smith as Anthony Collins wouldn’t necessarily have been the answer. And despite the lackluster play of Marshall Newhouse and indecision as to who will man the right tackle position going forward, between Newhouse, Boling, and Winston, the Bengals have given themselves plenty of potential answers.