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La'el Collins Suspension Lifted; Lineman Returns to Cowboys

La'el Collins - assuming he can stay eligible - is healthy and talented and ready to help the 5-1 Cowboys.

FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys suddenly has an impressive-if-healthy - and an impressive-if-not-suspended -group of offensive linemen here inside The Star.

Topping the headliners: On Monday, the suspension of La'el Collins was lifted. He's served his five-game penalty for alleged violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy, and figures to be the starter at right tackle following the bye when Dallas plays at Minnesota.

Meanwhile, there is undrafted second-year guy Terence Steele, who has been manning that spot ... and while we all didn't see it coming ...

By the start of this NFL season? Other teams apparently started seeing it, too, and sniffed around the Cowboys' potential willingness to trade the guy who is presently - temporarily - Dallas' starting right tackle.

Steele’s agent Erik Burkhardt recently revealed that the Cowboys received calls in the preseason about potentially trading Collins. The offensive lineman’s value has only increased since he has been inserted into the starting lineup.

Steele, Burkhardt tweeted on October 4, "may be the hardest working and most dedicated client I have ever represented. He’s just on another level. All of that work is paying off. I believe multiple teams called the Cowboys this preseason to trade for him because they see his tremendous upside and future.''

The Cowboys were wise to decline any offers, because when Collins was suspended for five games in September (which Dallas officials probably knew was coming), it led to the emergence of Steele, who has filled in at right tackle solidly in Collins’ absence.

“To play in this league, you have to have major confidence in yourself,” Steele said recently. “I worked my butt off this whole offseason, just for this moment, to prepare for this moment. I still have to continue to build off this. … I feel more comfortable out here for sure than last year.

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"I do feel more confident this year in my abilities.”

Steele was forced into the lineup in 2020, a baptism by fire that surely helped his readiness. Now he's good enough that in an interview with 105.3 the Fan, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted that Steele had an “argument” to keep the starting spot.

“I guess that’s OK to say an argument, a case, whatever and boy, has he,” Jones noted on October 12. “He’s just played outstanding. Boy, he’s shown me that he’s got a long-term future in this game and ... with the Cowboys.''

But to be clear: Collins is the superior player. The Cowboys could examine weaknesses elsewhere and shuffle bodies. But, as Jones said, "La’el Collins is a significant member of the team. This just gives us what you hope for and that is a young player ascending and gives us depth and gives us, if you will, an alternative. All of that’s there.”

Translating Jerry? Steele, who played well in Dallas' 35-29 OT win at New England, is "depth.'' And an "alternative'' in case of shuffling or injury - which the Cowboys dealt with against the Patriots when left tackle Tyron Smith exited the game for a time with an ankle problem.

Yes, the Cowboys have every reason to look at trade ideas (see Joe Haden here) and at 5-1 to be in go-for-it mode. But even with Collins back as a starter, and even with Steele set as a keeper? Dallas needs all the healthy and talented bodies it can gather.

And La'el Collins - assuming he can stay eligible - is healthy and talented.