In the 2022 offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals were hoping to bolster their offensive line, as the unit had been a major talking point in the Stripes' three-point loss in Super Bowl LVI. They kicked off free agency by quickly signing Alex Cappa and Ted Karras.
A few weeks later, La'el Collins was released by the Dallas Cowboys and the Bengals ended up signing him. Collins talked a big game when he got to Cincinnati, claiming that he was going to be Joe Burrow's new bodyguard.
Well, Collins failed to walk the walk with those comments. He wasn't atrocious by any means, finishing the 2022 season with a PFF grade of 57.9 but a 73.5 PFF run-blocking grade. A Week 16 injury led to Collins missing the final two regular season games and subsequent three playoff games.
While Collins was rehabbing in the offseason, the Bengals signed Orlando Brown Jr. to take over at left tackle. That, in turn, sent Jonah Williams over to right tackle, which is where Collins played in 2022. This meant that Collins was being relegated to backup duties.
Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report suggested that the Bengals trade Collins this year. He came up with one trade every NFL team should make and for the Bengals, it was shipping Collins off to the New York Jets.
La'el Collins trade proposal
Ballentine notes that due to Collins' injury, D'Ante Smith has been able to show that he can be of value to this team.
"Having a young and hungry tackle who can plug in at either spot on a cheap contract is better than keeping Collins around. The Bengals could save $7.7 million by trading the veteran."- Alex Ballentine
So, why would the Jets be the ideal trade partner here?
"Meanwhile, the Jets are left waiting to see what 37-year-old Duane Brown has left once he returns from a shoulder injury and have a right tackle battle between Max Mitchell and Billy Turner.- Alex Ballentine
Releasing or trading Corey Davis would easily give them enough money to take on Collins' contract. His ability to play either guard or tackle would give them another competent lineman and Collins a legitimate chance to start again."
This could make sense for both sides but I ultimately don't see Cincinnati trading Collins. Their offensive line was actually starting to gel and play well together down the stretch but then the injuries started piling up. Not having reliable depth is what sunk the Bengals' chances in the playoffs.
Sure, Collins isn't doing what he was brought in to do, but if Brown or Williams gets hurt, having Collins step up into a starting role is a pretty good insurance policy.