Bengals Fans Document Free Agent La’el Collins’ Visit to a Cincinnati Mall

Fans will go great lengths to track players potentially joining their team. Cleveland Cavaliers fans once followed flight plans, hoping LeBron James had some sort of connection to the airplanes in question.

Like all of us, die-hards want the inside scoop.

And Cincinnati Bengals supporters recently took things to a new level. The passionate NFL fan base documented free agent offensive lineman La’el Collins’ trip to a Cincy mall, hoping Joe Burrow’s potential protector wouldn’t leave town without a contract.

Writer’s note: This article was published prior to La’el Collins signing a three-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals on March 20.

La’el Collins visited with the Cincinnati Bengals

La'el Collins, who has received interest from the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency.
La’el Collins reacts during a game against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 29, 2019. | Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

This week, the Dallas Cowboys released right tackle La’el Collins to save $10 million. Collins had spent his entire career with Dallas, playing for the team since 2015.

He started in at least 15 games each year between 2017 and 2019 before missing the 2020 season with a hip injury. Collins, however, played in 12 games last season, starting in 10 of them.

The tackle is easily one of the top free agents on the market right now. Pro Football Focus gave him an 82.0 player grade in 2021 after seeing him allow just two sacks. So, given the Bengals’ lack of protection for quarterback Joe Burrow the last two seasons, Cincinnati showed an immediate interest in the LSU product.

Collins spent multiple days visiting with the team this week before reportedly leaving on March 19. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that he will meet with at least one more team, but the Bengals are still in the running.

And it appears he got well acquainted with the Queen City before visiting the other team. The 28-year-old even went shopping.

Bengals fans documented his trip to a Cincinnati mall

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported on March 19 that La’el Collins had left Cincinnati without a deal.

However, according to Sports Illustrated’s All Bengals, a fan saw Collins at Kenwood Towne Centre, a mall located in a suburb of Cincinnati, shortly after Jackson’s tweet. It appears several other fans posted pictures with him at the mall as well.

So, what was he shopping for? Did he want Bengals gear? Was he just craving a pretzel? Whatever the reasoning, his appearance lit Bengals social media on fire.

“If he was really moving on from the Bengals I don’t think he’s going to drive up 71 and chill at the mall,” a fan posted on Reddit.

Another follower just wanted to appreciate the moment, saying, “This is going to be a legendary day if he signs.”

Others, however, took time to praise the fan who initially spotted him.

“I’m not believing anything [Adam] Schefter or [Ian Rapoport] reports until Jon confirms it,” a Reddit user said.

Even beat reporters joined in on the fun, ranking the five stores Collins likely visited.

Fans will go great lengths to track what their teams are doing, and Bengals fans just took it to a new level. Hopefully, their hard work pays off.

La’el Collins would help Joe Burrow and the Bengals tremendously

Joe Burrow and his Cincinnati Bengals teammates during Super Bowl 56.
Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals talks with teammates before Super Bowl 56 on Feb. 13, 2022. | Rob Carr/Getty Images

It’s difficult to quantify just how much La’el Collins would help Joe Burrow and the Bengals.

They made it to the Super Bowl with a trash offensive line in 2021. It allowed Burrow to go down an NFL-leading 51 times. Collins would immediately improve that unit, which just added 2020 Super Bowl champion guard Alex Cappa and two-time Super Bowl-winning lineman Ted Karras.

According to Pro Football Focus, Collins has earned a 70.0-plus pass-blocking grade from PFF each of the last three seasons. Isaiah Prince, who played in 15 games at tackle for the Bengals last year and started in all four playoff games, earned just a 39.7 grade.

Burrow proved he can do some special things without a strong offensive line. Adding Collins to an already dangerous squad featuring Joey B, Ja’Marr Chase, and others would allow the quarterback to accomplish even more for the city of Cincinnati.

The Bengals need to do everything in their power to sign La’el Collins, even if that means introducing him to all the other shopping centers in the area. If he liked Kenwood Mall, he might also be fond of Rookwood Commons.

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