IRVING, Texas -- Had La'el Collins been picked in the first round, like many assumed, he would have been guaranteed millions.
Signing as an undrafted free agent with the Dallas Cowboys, Collins received a $21,000 signing bonus as part of a three-year deal worth a guaranteed $1.657 million.
“I’ve thought about it, but it’s not even about the money,” Collins said at his introductory press conference. “I never played the game for the money -- I play the because I love the game, I play the game because I’m passionate about it.
“Just to be here, I’m still getting paid. And at the end of the day, it was way more than I was getting college. It’s a plus. It’s a great situation. What’s for me is going to be for me. The money, all that, that’s cool. If I handle my business and this team handles the business that we know we’re going to handle, that’ll come.”
The earliest the Cowboys could look to sign Collins to a more lucrative extension is following the 2016 season. They were hamstrung on the amount of the bonus money they could offer because every team is limited to a total of $86,597 for undrafted free agents. He will make a base salary of $435,000 in 2015 and the Cowboys agreed to apply the maximum allowable per-year increase in 2016 ($545,500) and 2017 ($656,000).
He can also make extra money through the league’s performance-based pay system that rewards players who outplay their contracts. Ronald Leary earned the most among Cowboys from 2014 with $286,812.61, followed by J.J. Wilcox at $245,172.57.
While Collins said the decision was not about the money, the fact that every team passed on him, which would include the Cowboys, would serve as motivation.
“I knew it was no question that I’m going to play football,” Collins said. “That’s no question. I knew that I was going to be a part of something special. The moment I knew I had an opportunity to choose, and all the teams I had to choose from, I was like ‘Wow.’ At the end of the day I look at it like, a lot of people passed up on me -- whatever the case may be. I understand. I get that. But now everybody has to face me. Everybody has to face this team, and they will feel it.”