The Dallas Cowboys are doing their best to walk and chew gum at the same time.
The team started the offseason with the goal of securing as much of their homegrown talent as possible, and it began with making sure defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence would remain for the long term. With that deal in the books effective this past April, they turned their attention primarily to getting the same mission accomplished on quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper, with the goal of firing up talks in 2020 with running back Ezekiel Elliott. Things didn't go as planned, however, because neither Prescott nor Cooper were willing to sign just yet. Elliott was though, while the final details of his new contract are being hammered out.
Of course, owner Jerry Jones immediately made it clear a "chunk of the pie" was taken by Collins -- in speaking with 105.3FM the Fan on Tuesday morning -- but the numbers dispute his stance, as usual. The new deal on Collins actually reduces his cap hit in 2019 by $5.7 million, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, adding millions to the current $26 million in cap space. The lineman does, however, get bragging rights over the rest of the league with his guaranteed money.
Comp update: Cowboys and OT La’el Collins reached agreement on a five-year, $50 million contract extension that includes $35 million guaranteed, per source. It’s the highest guarantee given to a right tackle.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 3, 2019
, this is proof the Cowboys are juggling more than one contract at one time. For Collins, who was currently set to hit the free agent market in 2020, it's a deal the team would obviously rather take care of now as opposed to seeing a higher price tag in a few months. Given the need and value of offensive tackles in the NFL, securing him now before other teams can make a run at him makes perfect sense.
This is especially true given the resources the Cowboys have put into moving Collins from guard to tackle.
A first-round talent that fell to the ranks of the undrafted in 2015 due to a police investigation in which he was never named a suspect or person of interest, Collins joined the Cowboys and eventually supplanted left guard Ronald Leary, although his base position at LSU was tackle. He would stave off Leary as starter until tearing a ligament in his big toe in October 2016, and that both ended his season and his play at left guard. When right tackle Doug Free decided to retire following that season, Collins was moved out to the right edge to become Free's successor and landed a two-year deal worth $15.4 million.
Things got off to a roaring start but have since died down noticeably, and for several reasons -- including, but not limited to -- the unwise hiring of offensive line coach Paul Alexander.
Alexander was fired after just seven games and Collins began to again find his swagger, but suffered a torn rotator cuff that while not costing him games, required surgery to repair this offseason. He's not missed any time in training camp and is 100 percent for the regular season opener. Keeping Collins in tow provides continuity across the Cowboys' offensive line, and whatever the numbers on the deal end up being, the fact remains they now have roughly $32 million in space remaining for 2019, following Collins' agreement. That's more than enough to grant long-term deals on Elliott, Prescott and Cooper, with room to spare going into a 2020 fiscal year where the club is flush with cash.
, and an extension of Collins won't impact the money or tone of those talks. When asked after the first day of Week 1 practice if he was concerned about playing under a contract year, Collins made it clear he was not. One day later, it's obvious why that was his response. For Elliott, if anything, he's likely pleased to know his protection going forward will be familiar. On Monday, Collins called Elliott "family", and praised what he brings to the locker room and on gameday.
By all accounts, that family will remain intact for a long time.