The Cincinnati Bengals probably won’t be able to keep offensive tackle Anthony Collins from hitting free agency without using the franchise tag on him.
Collins has been a career backup in Cincinnati on both the left and right side, but injuries this past season forced him to start at LT, and he proved to be one of the better LTs this past year.
That will make for an interesting market for his services.
Do teams pay him like a franchise LT, one of the most critical positions in football? Temas have overpaid for players of lesser ability than Collins before...cough...Raiders…
The Bengals have made it clear they value their own, but will never overpay to keep someone. As for teams who need that all-important LT, the Dolphins, Cardinals and...oh yes...the Raiders are in need of one.
Other teams that could be under the radar for Collins are the Patriots, Jaguars and even the Ravens if they fail to re-sign Eugene Monroe. It would be especially painful to lose AC to a division rival, and it could help shift the balance of power in the AFC North back towards Baltimore.
Don't rule out the Panthers either after Jordan Gross retired, though they're tight against the salary cap and need to do some serious roster maneuvering to be able to afford Collins.
At the end of the day, the Cardinals and Dolphins are the biggest threats to signing Collins. Miami has nearly $40 million to spend and a gaping hole at LT, and they'll be willing to overspend to find a long-term blindside protector for Ryan Tannehill.
Arizona has about $18 million to spend, so they'll have to reconstruct their roster a little to afford Collins while re-signing guys like Karlos Dansby.
At the end of the day, if the Bengals don't re-sign Collins before free agency, they'll be at the mercy of the open market for Collins' services.