La’el Collins is latest prize in Bengals’ O-line rebuild

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Cincinnati Bengals signed a third free-agent lineman to shore up an offensive line that has struggled to protect quarterback Joe Burrow.

The Bengals got their new right tackle on Sunday, signing former Dallas Cowboy La’el Collins to a three-year contract. Last week they inked free agents Ted Karras, likely to replace the released Trey Hopkins at center, and guard Alex Cappa as the unit gets an overhaul.

“We have three new guys that know how to set the tone,” said Frank Pollack, the Bengals’ offensive line coach. “Pros that know how to prepare and practice.”

According to the Bengals’ website, Collins said he let Burrow know that “your new bodyguard is in town.”

The 28-year-old Collins has played for the Cowboys for all of his six years in the league. He 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. Salary cap issues — he was owed $30 million over three years — made him an odd man out with the Cowboys.

“There are good fits and perfect fits,” Collins said. “I felt like this was the perfect fit from the jump.”

In his first three seasons in the league, Collins played under Pollack at Dallas.

“Love him to death. He definitely fits the mold of a glass eater,” Pollack said last week. “He is nasty, and he was a lot of fun to coach.”

The respect is mutual.

“He’s the best offensive line coach I’ve been around since I’ve been in the NFL, hands down,” Collins said. “And getting back to work with him. And also the players on this team you see and look at the guys around that helped bring this team to where it is. What other team would you want to be part of?”

Burrow was battered behind one of the leakiest offensive lines in the league last season. Including the playoffs and Super Bowl, Burrow was sacked more than 70 times, injuring his right knee, suffering a throat contusion and a dislocated pinky finger, among other bumps and bruises.

Still, the quarterback led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years. He was sacked a Super Bowl record-tying seven times in Cincinnati’s 23-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Riley Reiff, who was signed by the Bengals to a one-year contract last year to play right tackle, likely won’t be re-signed. Reiff missed the last three regular-season games of 2021 and the postseason with an ankle injury.

Left tackle Jonah Williams and guard Jackson Carman are likely candidates to round out the reconstituted line.

The Bengals last week also signed free-agent tight end Hayden Hurst to a one-year contract following the departure of C.J. Uzomah, who signed with the New York Jets. Cincinnati also re-signed defensive tackle B.J. Hill, cornerback Eli Apple, backup quarterback Brandon Allen, receiver Mike D. Thomas, safety Michael J. Thomas, defensive tackle Josh Tupou and long-snapper Clark Harris.

Moves on Monday included the release of cornerback Trae Waynes, who was injured during most of his two seasons with the Bengals, and the re-signing of wide receiver Trenton Irwin to a one-year contract.

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