(right) finished the season as Pro Football Focus' No. 1 tackle. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been among the most active teams in free agency this year, acquiring defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Alterraun Verner, quarterback Josh McCown and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. But one acquisition on Thursday morning, though under the radar, may pay the most outstanding dividends. Tampa Bay agreed to terms with former Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Collins on a five-year, $30 million deal with $15 million guaranteed, ostensibly filling a left tackle slot that had been problematic given Donald Penn's decline over the last few seasons. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Penn was released just a few hours after the Collins signing.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Collins, a fourth-round pick in 2008 out of Kansas, has never started more than seven games in a season, but his value to the Bengals in 2013 was notable. He started the last six games of the season, including Cincinnati's wild-card playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers, and didn't give up a single sack in 673 total passing snaps, adding just one quarterback hit and 13 quarterback hurries. For this, he was given Pro Football Focus' No. 1 overall ranking at his position. In addition, his excellence outside allowed the Bengals to move tackle Andrew Whitworth inside to guard, further bolstering the line.
Collins had been talking with the Bengals, Buccaneers and Panthers about his future (the Ravens also expressed interest before they re-signed Eugene Monroe), and the Bucs were wise to step in. Last season, Penn allowed 11 sacks, six quarterback hits and 28 hurries. A veteran who has often struggled with his conditioning, Penn will almost certainly be on the trading block.
MORE COVERAGE: 2014 NFL free agency tracker, grades
As for the Bengals, Whitworth has said that he would prefer to play left tackle, but there's no doubt that losing Collins is a big hit to their offense.
This is an outstanding deal for a team in need of a serious protection upgrade on the blind side of its starting quarterback, whether that quarterback is McCown or Mike Glennon
. Swing tackles of Collins' caliber don't grow on trees, and the Bucs were very wise to get him for sub-starter money.