CINCINNATI — Bengals coach Zac Taylor said it was a “tough” decision to release right tackle La’el Collins, but didn’t provide much insight into the timing or reasoning behind it.
Collins was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list Aug. 29 and was still rehabbing the knee he had surgically repaired following an ACL/MCL tear Dec. 24 at New England. A free agent signing from Dallas in the offseason ahead of the 2022 campaign, he started 15 games in his first of what was supposed to be three years in Cincinnati.
The Bengals released him back into free agency Tuesday on the team’s off day.
“It’s tough,” Taylor said Wednesday. “There’s never a great time. You know, he worked really hard for us and have a lot of respect for LC and the way he went about his business and obviously gave us some really good snaps last year until the injury. Enjoy being around LC, and he’s one of those guys that just loves ball and you enjoy being around him. Never a great time, that was a tough one.”
Cincinnati saves about $13 million in cap space over the 2023 and 2024 seasons, but it’s unclear why the decision was made to it in Week 2. Taylor would not clarify if the reason was business- or health-related.
“What I can say is there’s never a great time to do it,” Taylor said. “It sucks when you ever tell a guy like that bye.”
Jonah Williams replaced Collins as the team’s starting right tackle this year after Orlando Brown Jr.’s signing took him out of his normal left tackle role. Jackson Carman is listed as the backup right tackle, but D’Ante Smith, who is the backup left tackle on the Bengals’ depth chart, might be ahead of him as a swing tackle.
Smith had a solid training camp and climbed the depth chart during the preseason. Asked if Smith’s growth played a factor in the team’s willingness to part ways with Collins, Taylor said Cincinnati is comfortable with its depth. The Bengals also have Cody Ford, who could play tackle if needed.
“I think D’Ante had a good camp for us, and so again as we continue to develop guys like D’Ante and Jackson and those guys that can give us good tackle reps if needed,” Taylor said. “You know, we feel good about our depth there.”