Bengals’ La’el Collins Welcomes Jonah Williams As Challenger To RT Job, Hopes He Stays

The Cincinnati Bengals don’t know who their right tackle at the start of the 2023 regular season is going to be. They do have options. But they also don’t know what options they will have available to them come September. And there’s not a lot they can do about it.

The simplest solution would be for their starting right tackle, La’el Collins, to get healthy quickly and be ready for the start of the season. Signed as a free agent last year, he underwent a triple-ligament surgical repair of his knee in mid-January to fix his ACL, MCL, and PCL. That he will be ready to go in September is far from guaranteed.

If he is not available, the Bengals would hope that Jonah Williams is—the problem being that Williams would purportedly prefer to be elsewhere. Their starting left tackle up until the Bengals just signed Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency last month, Williams requested a trade after the aforementioned move was made. The coaching staff has expressed hope to see Williams working at right tackle later this year.

Collins hopes he’s still in Cincinnati as well, even though he knows he may be competing with him for a starting job. He told the team’s website recently, “To me, man, all it is is we’re going to be better and we’re going to have depth and we’re going to be deep and we’re coming and we’re not stopping”.

Obviously having both would be better on the field, giving the Bengals a quality swing tackle regardless of who is in the lineup, provided that everybody is healthy. On the same time, they are also on the hook for Williams for more than $12 million this year under his fifth-year option. That’s a lot to pay for someone who isn’t starting.

“Jonah’s going to be fine”, Collins said of his teammate. “He’s a hell of an NFL player. He’s a first-round pick. He’s done it. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Jonah with the type of person he is. It’s like every one of these guys in here”.

It is unknown how much, if at all, the two have conversed since the Brown signing was completed. Ostensibly, neither would be thrilled about it, since it calls their starting job into question and forces them into a competition they likely otherwise wouldn’t have had.

Nobody was really anticipating that the Bengals would go after a top offensive lineman this offseason after they signed three starters in free agency a year ago, Collins being one of them. Also returning as free agents from last season are center Ted Karras and right guard Alex Cappa.

In spite of the investments made, the offensive line still allowed a sack rate of 6.7 percent a year ago, ranking in the middle of the pack. The Bengals offense averaged 3.8 yards per rush, ranking 29th in the NFL. But they still scored the seventh-most points and had the eighth-most yards and finished with a .750 winning percentage.

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