The Cowboys are reportedly hoping that La’El Collins, who had played guard the last two seasons, will win the right tackle job and replace the retired Doug Free according to Bryant Crews of the Cowboys Wire. It makes sense that Dallas would consider the move, but if I was Collins and my option was guard or right tackle I think I would prefer to remain at guard and “lose” the right tackle competition due to the financial implications.
The way the NFL market values linemen generally goes in the order of left tackle, right guard, left guard, center and then right tackle. Here is the average salary for the top 10 players at each position:
Looking at those numbers I am not sure why any player would voluntarily aim to play right tackle if he can play, and play well, at any of the other positions on the offensive line. The NFL looks at the RT position as inferior to pretty much anyone else on the line (one could make an argument about center as its a top heavy position) and year after year that continues to manifest itself in free agency.
Last season the best right tackle (Ricky Wagner) scored a $9.5 million per year contract and he is the only player above $8 million a season. The best available (Mitchell Schwartz) the year before earned $6.6 million a year and extensions last year for the best players were just above $6 million a year.
On the other hand Ronald Leary, who played with the Cowboys last year, landed a $9 million a year contract in free agency and while he may have been best available he was not the best in the game. A few extensions have topped $10 million a year and a top 10 guard is probably going to earn $8 million a season and a top 20 player is going to earn at least $6 million. Those are the numbers for the top right tackles in the NFL. So I’m not sure the benefit that exists for Collins if he indeed could be the starting guard for the team.
Collins will be a restricted free agent after the season and is already eligible for an extension, but if he can play guard he should make certain that Dallas treats him as such when an extension talk comes up. There are a handful of players (Lane Johnson and Kelechi Osemele) that have been able to leverage their ability to play other positions (in both cases left tackle) into getting contracts that paid them as if they played a different position. Collins needs to make sure he falls in that same category.