The Cincinnati Bengals may have missed their best opportunity to keep offensive Anthony Collins for at least one more season when they opted not to use the franchise tag on him. It appears Collins was always set on testing the open market in hopes one team would be willing to pay him like a franchise left tackle.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may just be that team. According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, the Bucs are poised to sign Collins if the Bengals aren't willing to match their offer:
Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Collins is expected to sign with the Buccaneers for between $6.5 million to $7 million provided that he doesn't re-sign with the Bengals.
NFL teams are allowed to negotiate with free agents now, but they can't make contracts official until 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The report does also say the Bucs are considering St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold. He's played right tackle, right guard and left tackle in his career, so the Bucs may try to sign both and have Collins play LT while Saffold plays at another spot. Saffold has reportedly told the Rams he's not returning there.
According to John Keim with the Washington Post, the Washington Redskins are also expressing interest in Collins, who played like an elite pass-blocker with Cincinnati last year.
According to Pro Football Focus, in 389 passing plays in 2013, Collins allowed only one QB hit and no sacks and just14 QB pressures. Not having a full season under his belt as a starter is making teams, maybe including the Bengals, hesitant to sign him to a long-term deal that pays him like an elite tackle.
One thing appears likely, and that's the Bucs will sign one of the top free agent lineman left on the market.