The Dallas Cowboys need to secure the interior of their defense this offseason. But does that include re-signing unrestricted free agent Maliek Collins?
The Dallas Cowboys had a legendary draft class in 2016. America’s Team landed Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott in the first round, Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second, and Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth. But their third-rounder showed potential as well.
Drafted 67th overall, Nebraska defensive tackle Maliek Collins posted an impressive rookie season recording 5.0 sacks, the second-most on the team that year. According to NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats, Collins averaged 4.28 seconds from snap to sack in his first year, a high among first-year interior defensive lineman and fifth-fastest in the entire league.
Unfortunately, Collins’ career in Dallas has been plagued by injuries. As a rookie, he suffered a broken foot during OTAs. He would have surgery on his left foot two years later only to break it again that May. And a knee injury limited him during the 2018 regular season.
Yet, despite all those injuries, Collins has still been able to play in all but three regular-season games over the past four years and he was a 16-game starter for the Cowboys in 2019. The 24-year old defensive tackle recorded 20 total tackles and 4.0 sacks last season. Collins will be an unrestricted free agent next month.
Here’s what ESPN’s Todd Archer recently wrote about the Cowboys potentially re-signing the young defensive tackle in Dallas.
"“Collins is this year’s version of Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. The Cowboys would like to keep him, but he should command more than they want to pay and will have to leave. If the market doesn’t fall right for him, then maybe he returns.”"
Re-signing Collins will likely come down to price. A solid comp for the Cowboys’ young defensive tackle might be the Seattle Seahawks Quinton Jefferson. The 26-year old defensive lineman posted very similar numbers to Collins over the past two seasons, racking up 26 tackles and 3.5 sacks as a 12-game starter for the Seahawks in 2019.
Jefferson signed a one-year, $2.025 million deal with Seattle last April. But Spotrac.com has set his estimated market value at a $5.1 million average yearly salary based on last season’s performance.
Maliek Collins has never been able to fulfill the potential he flashed as a rookie in Dallas. And despite a stellar showing during training camp last season, his play in the midst of a contract year was largely forgettable. With a new head coach and coaching staff now in Dallas, it’s anyone’s guess whether the team will elect to move on from or re-invest in Collins. It will likely come down to whether the Cowboys believe they can find someone better and cheaper.