Several Dolphins players traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday to meet with LSU offensive lineman La’El Collins in an attempt to persuade him to sign with the Dolphins.
The Dolphins did not send coach Joe Philbin, any coaches or team officials to the meeting. That would have risked violating an NFL rule limiting contact in certain circumstances between undrafted players and coaches, according to the league.
Dolphins players Jarvis Landry and Anthony Johnson, who were teammates of Collins at LSU, posted pictures of themselves flying to Louisiana for the meeting. Dolphins center Mike Pouncey joined them on the flight, according to a picture posted on Instagram. There were initial reports that former LSU player Kelvin Sheppard also would be part of the Dolphins’ contingent.
A source close to Collins said the Dolphins have emerged as a possibility for Collins, but there’s a lot of interest from other teams and it’s too early to establish a front-runner.
The Buffalo Bills — who met with Collins on Monday — as well as New England, Tampa, Chicago, Detroit and the New York Giants are among the teams that have expressed interest in Collins, according to media reports. ESPN reported that it’s unlikely Collins will sign with the Bills.
The Dolphins declined to discuss the players’ meeting with Collins, whether they asked the players to meet with him or whether they paid for the plane.
Collins was expected to be a first-round draft pick before his name was linked to a former girlfriend who was murdered. The Baton Rouge police department met with Collins on Monday and said he is not a suspect. But no arrest has been made in the case.
Johnson, who played with Collins at LSU, said on Twitter that he was “going [to] bring my brother back to South Beach.”
Dolphins coaches and front office officials met with Collins during a pre-draft visit at team headquarters.
Bills coach Rex Ryan met with Collins at a Baton Rouge restaurant on Monday night, but the NFL said teams cannot meet with players who were eligible for the 2015 draft at their campus or residence if the player has withdrawn from school (Collins did not enroll at LSU for the spring semester and the NFL told LSU it considers that withdrawing, according to LSU’s sports information director) and if the school’s final exams have not concluded. LSU’s final exams conclude Saturday.
Asked whether a player would be permitted to meet with a team at a restaurant, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said players “would not be able to meet at a restaurant in the player’s city.”
So does that mean Ryan violated an NFL rule? The league declined to comment.
The Dolphins’ pitch to Collins could offer several attractive elements: the likelihood he could win a starting job at guard; the lack of a state income tax in Florida; and the fact he would be reunited with two players who were teammates at LSU.
Teams can offer Collins a contract for as much as $1.58 million over three years.
If Collins signed, he would immediately become the front-runner to beat out Dallas Thomas, rookie fourth-rounder Jamil Douglas and veteran Jeff Linkenbach for one of two starting guard spots. The Dolphins privately project Billy Turner to be one of their starting guards.
It’s also possible the Dolphins could play Collins at tackle and move Ja’Wuan James to guard, though there’s no indication that is being considered.
Collins has said he’s OK playing guard or tackle. But Collins could maximize his value for his second professional contract by playing left tackle, because tackles tend to command bigger contracts than guards in free agency.
▪ The Dolphins released defensive backs T.J. Heath and Lowell Rose and kicker Zach Hocker.