With Ronald Leary leaving, time for La'el Collins to meet line's standard

FRISCO, Texas – Ronald Leary is expected to sign with Denver when the market opens in a few hours, and already people are trying to connect the Tony Romo dots.

It makes sense, in a way, because Romo will want to go to a team with a good offensive line and plenty of weapons, which Denver has to offer.

For the Dallas Cowboys, losing Leary was not a surprise. It was expected and they hope to receive a third- or fourth-round compensatory pick in 2018 for losing him. They simply could not afford to pay him the type of money the Broncos did (reportedly $20 million guaranteed and more than $8 million annually) with the money they have already committed to Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick and the type of money they will commit to Zack Martin.

The Cowboys will simply insert La'el Collins back into the job he had before he tore a ligament in his toe that cost him the final 13 games of the 2016 season. The Cowboys signed Collins to a three-year, fully guaranteed deal in 2015, and he will be a restricted free agent after this season, so Dallas will essentially control his rights.

Collins became the apple of Jerry Jones’ eye after he was not picked two years ago because of dubious circumstances surrounding a murder case before the 2015 draft. He attended a dinner at Jerry Jones' house with all of the offensive line – except Leary and Doug Free -- and head coach Jason Garrett and line coach Frank Pollack. He was given the left guard job even if Leary never should have lost it. Leary had zero chance of winning the job back in 2016 no matter how well he played, but then Collins got hurt.

Leary excelled, although under the radar when compared to his All-Pro linemates, and now he has reaped the benefits.

Through his first two seasons, Collins was able to make some highlight blocks. Since it was National Pancake Day the other day, his double pancake blocks against Seattle in 2015 were a nice reminder of his athleticism.

But he needs to make a jump in his play-to-play consistency.

With Smith, Frederick and Martin, there is a high standard in the Cowboys’ offensive line room. Leary was able to uphold it. Collins will have to do the same for the Cowboys to continue to succeed in 2017.