Cowboys look genius for keeping faith in Terence Steele after La'el Collins' Bengals release

The Cowboys' front office is playing 3D checkers.
Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys
Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages

By and large, the Dallas Cowboys' front office has done a tremendous job cultivating the current roster. That process has included making some tough decisions, like entrusting Terence Steele as the franchise right tackle.

That seemingly wasn't the original plan with Steele, whom Dallas signed as a priority free agent following the 2020 draft. The Texas native was thrust into a prominent role as a rookie, making 14 starts and playing 85% of the snaps.

Steele entered that season as La'el Collins backup.

After starting the year on injured reserve, though, Collins underwent hip surgery that ended his season. Little did the Cowboys know that the operation would mark the start of an extended run of injuries for Collins.

Injuries -- coupled with inconsistent performance and a bloated contract -- led to the Cowboys releasing Collins in March of 2022. After a similar run the past year in Cincinnati, the Bengals officially cut ties with Collins on Tuesday.

Bengals release former Cowboys OT La'el Collins

The Cowboys gave Collins a five-year, $50 million extension in 2019 after two impressive seasons starting at right tackle. From there, it was all downhill. In 2021, he was suspended five games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and he missed 21 of 33 games spanning 2020 and 2021 due to suspension or injury.

That allowed for Steele to get extended reps at right tackle. Before long, it became obvious the Cowboys could survive without Collins and they released him to save $10 million. He'll cost a hefty $8.7 million against the 2023 cap, but Steele has quickly ascended into one of the game's best right tackles.

Collins turned around and signed a three-year, $21 million contract with Cincinnati and lasted one season. A torn ACL in December didn't help matters, but Collins hadn't performed up to expectations before the injury, either.

Signed to help keep Joe Burrow upright after the QB was battered in the 2021 playoffs, Collins posted a 44.2 pass-block grade last year. He allowed 34 pressures, five sacks and committed eight penalties, per Pro Football Focus.

Now 30 years old with a worrying injury history and performance issues, Collins might be better served at guard instead of tackle.

He'll likely garner interest in short order, but that's of zero concern to the Cowboys, who knocked it out of the park by cutting bait with Collins when they did and keeping faith that Steele would develop into a franchise tackle.

Lo and behold, Steele has a shiny new contract extension and killed it in Week 1 against the Giants coming off ACL surgery, while Collins is looking to join his third team in two years.

What a marvelous job by the Dallas front office.