IRVING, Texas (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys signed La'el Collins on Thursday, bringing in the former LSU offensive tackle who had been a projected first-round pick in last week's NFL draft until his name came up in a police investigation.
Collins, a 2014 All-Southeastern Conference lineman, has never been named a suspect or person of interest in the shooting death of 29-year-old Brittney Mills. Police acknowledged days before the draft that they wanted to talk to Collins because he knew the victim, who was eight months pregnant when she was gunned down at her home in late April.
After he went undrafted, Collins met with police, who say he has answered all of their questions. Collins also submitted to a paternity test that proved he is not the father of Mills' infant son, who was born alive after the shooting but died days later.
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Collins is a Baton Rouge native who was rated among Louisiana's top high school prospects in 2010, when he committed to play near home.
He was eligible for the 2014 draft, but elected to play for LSU as a senior to further refine his game. Initially, it appeared to pay off when he was projected as first-round choice this year.
But going undrafted in the first round has cost Collins millions of dollars.
While the Cowboys have not released financial details of Collins contract, he was eligible only for a standard three-year deal given to undrafted free agents, which pays $435,000 in 2015, $525,000 in 2016, and $615,000 in 2017. Also, bonuses are limited, with each team limited to spending about $87,000 for all undrafted free agents combined.
Baton Rouge police Lt. Jonny Dunnam has said police understood the timing of the investigation was unfortunate for Collins and that the department will be proactive about letting the public know if or when Collins is cleared. He also stressed that Collins currently is "no more a person of interest than a neighbor would be."
When the Cowboys announced Collins' signing, they said he could play either guard or tackle. Collins likely would prefer to play tackle, giving him more leverage when he is able to negotiate a new contract.
In the meantime, if Collins plays to his potential, the Cowboys likely will get exceptional value for his services the next few seasons, regardless of where he plays.
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Posted on Thu, May 7, 2015
by The Lafourche Gazette