lael-collins.jpg
USATSI

You won't see La'El Collins on the field in 2020. The Dallas Cowboys starting right tackle has been nursing multiple issues since the offseason and the biggest one has now ended his season without it ever starting. Collins was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury ahead of Week 1, with the hopes he'd have a shot at returning once the mandatory three-week IR period expired, but the prognosis quickly turned from optimistic to bleak as the team began prepping for their Week 4 battle with the Cleveland Browns. He has now decided to undergo surgery this week to repair the injury, sources confirm to CBS Sports, starting a road to recovery that will stretch into spring 2021. 

This was an expectation reported by CBS Sports on Wednesday following the Cowboys loss to the Seattle Seahawks, with two separate sources hammering at the likelihood Collins was truly done for the year. One made it clear to "not bet on" the 27-year-old taking the field this year, with the other noting the impressive play of backup swing tackle Brandon Knight as added reason the Cowboys weren't pressing the issue. 

It appears fellow backup tackle Terence Steele will get the start at right tackle against the Browns, per Jane Slater of NFL Network, but it remains a fluid situation that could still see Knight take the start against the Browns, or Steele get the nod with an extremely short leash -- kicking the door open for Knight to step in and secure the job for the remainder of the season. The Cowboys are truly trying to figure out who should be the definitive starter going forward, and that might require some experimentation. 

As for Collins, it marks the first time of his NFL career wherein he'll miss an entire season. Since getting a shot as an undrafted free agent in 2015, he's missed more than four games only once, when he was sidelined for all but three games with a torn ligament in his toe. He's since been absent for only one game the past three seasons and having been moved from left guard to right tackle, earned himself a five-year, $50 million extension in 2019 that includes $35 million guaranteed. He'll now get to the task of repairing himself for the 2021 campaign while the Cowboys move forward in trying to figure out who's the best option to man his vacated seat.

The option to delay Collins' surgery with the hopes of returning this year was well-intended, but ultimately deleted his 2020 altogether.