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May 04, 2015

The La'el Collins question for the Panthers

Former LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins is set to meet with police in Louisiana in regards to the murder of a 29-year-old pregnant woman believed to be his ex girlfriend.

Police have not called Collins a suspect, but that they wanted to talk to him in connection to this tragic event made the would-be first-round pick undraftable in this weekend’s NFL draft.

For NFL teams, there’s a simple solution to a complicated issue: If he’s innocent of any wrongdoing, wait until he’s cleared and then look to sign him as an undrafted free agent.

But the situation is more complicated for a team like the Carolina Panthers, who have a story with a similarly tragic headline in their young history.

Brittney Mills was shot to death in her Baton Rouge, La., home on April 24. Her son, Brenton Mills, was delivered but died a week later.

Collins’ reps have reportedly said he has proof that he wasn’t near Baton Rouge at the time of her murder. He reportedly will submit blood work and a polygraph if need be.

Collins left the draft in Chicago last week and went undrafted. He was slated to be a mid-first-round selection, which would have netted him a four-year deal worth around $10 million.

Instead, if a team signs him, he will sign a standard three-year contract for undrafted rookies. Teams will guarantee as much of his base salary as they can, and he could make as much as $150,000 to $250,000. But it’s a far cry from the millions he was due.

Collins would also be eligible for restricted free agency after three years.

That’s best-case scenario for Collins. In the worst-case, this is another Rae Carruth story where a man had his pregnant ex murdered.

It’s the worst stain on a proud organization’s 21-year history. Even if Collins is cleared, is it the type of headline a team with such a similar story in its past wants to take on?

“I feel terrible for the woman,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said after the first round of the draft when asked about Collins. “I feel awful for the kid. It’s a bigger part of it. It’s bigger. It’s just frightening, this is a really frightening situation. It’s difficult. He is a very talented kid.”

The Panthers had interest in Collins before this tragic situation, though the team knew the chances were slim he would fall to them. With all the noise around him, and due to the team’s history with this situation, it’d be very surprising to see Carolina sign him.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on May 4, 2015 at 10:33 AM | Permalink


It's one thing to not sign someone who is guilty, or the league assumes is guilty (Hardy), it's something else entirely to not sign someone who is not only innocent, but has had his name needlessly smeared because of coincidental circumstances.

If Collins is innocent, I say throw all the money available and sign him. If the front office can't look past a headline (one in which Collins isn't even a suspect!), then it might be time for a regime change. At some point, the Panthers have to care about winning football games, and that means signing talent.

I can't think of a Panther fan who would fault the team for signing an innocent high-grade talent.

Posted by: Cameron | May 4, 2015 10:54:28 AM


Posted by: Jerme | May 4, 2015 11:47:47 AM


Posted by: BILL | May 4, 2015 12:08:23 PM

IF he is cleared, he's a victim. Charlotte has shown how to reach out to victims in the past. The Panthers as an organization have shown how to reach out (ask the Olsen family, ask the RIVERA family).
Get the whole story before making a decision.
If not, he's none of the Panthers business.

Posted by: criolle johnny | May 4, 2015 12:48:59 PM

He will likely be innocent of any wrongdoing and should not be ignored simply because he used to be in a relationship with the lady. How was he supposed to know this would happen to her? If he could see the future, he would surely have avoided her. We need depth at LT and we need him! Fans will gratefully welcome him to our team. I would!

Posted by: Bryan Barnes | May 4, 2015 12:53:06 PM

Collins is OG turners best bud.all this is to ensure he goes to Carolina..watch...

Posted by: jj | May 4, 2015 2:23:10 PM

Collins is OG turners best bud.all this is to ensure he goes to Carolina..watch...

Posted by: jj | May 4, 2015 2:23:10 PM

I agree with the others saying if he is innocent why not sign him. I had not thought about the Turner connection. He needs to be doing some recruiting!!!

Posted by: grrrowl | May 4, 2015 4:10:08 PM

I share the opinion of everyone here. If he's ultimately cleared then the Panthers would be idiotic not to consider signing him. They can't blame that move (or non-move) on bad press, because A) it's irrelevant of he didn't do anything and B) it's worse press to be a bad football that had a chance to improve and didn't because of being scared to repeat past mistakes (even though the police have basically vouched that you wouldn't be). I hope that the front office can spot a good scenario when they see one, because on paper he is a PERFECT fit and seeing as how every team can only pay him the minimum I think he'd be inclined to sign in a southeastern city (he's from Baton Rouge) where he has the inside track on a starting gig and would play beside his best friend. Go HARD after this guy if he's in the clear.

Posted by: Thomas J. | May 4, 2015 5:59:36 PM

I commented yesterday that Turner needs to do some recruiting. If he is cleared I'd like to see the Panthers go after him, but realistically. Don't you think he would prefer to sign with the Saints and play close to home and family? Turner will have to be a REALLY good friend to counter playing for his local pro team.

Posted by: grrrowl | May 5, 2015 10:54:26 AM

there is definitely smoke here and it would have been an incredible risk for anybody to draft him high.

that said.....if the guy is WILLING to sign so that he can get a little bit of a bonus (my understanding each team has a total pool amount for these and it isn't much).....you do it. you do it immediately.

you go to the press and you say "hey....it would be a travesty if this guy played in the league as a murderer. but it would also be a travesty if the guy didn't and he was innocent. so he's going to stay on the inactive exempt list until he gets cleared and if anything further comes up implicating involvement in the situation, he will be waived immediately."

this country IS innocent until proven guilty and this guy IS being treated like he's guilty by everybody except the police who won't even label him a suspect (doesn't mean he won't be later).

if the guy turns out to be innocent and we didn't at least try to get him, that's terrible. at the very least, we should be in contact with his agent and express serious interest contingent on his name being cleared. but i would pull the trigger, sign him, and give an elaborate and well thought out press conference to explain why you don't wait on the shot at getting a first round talent for peanuts.

if you say it's only a 5% chance that he's innocent, that's a 5% chance that the guy is being treated in the most unamerican way imaginable.

and if he's cleared and plays....whoever gets him on the minimum deal is going to get him at his best for the next 2 years at least. the guy is going to be desperately chasing that big contract that he missed out on.

for every aaron hernandez, there's a duke lacrosse situation. there is a reason innocent until guilty exists here. more harm is done to presuming guilt that harm done by presuming innocence.

all of the above said, i agree that it doesn't look good for the guy, especially if the kid was his. but police have said AGAIN that he isn't a suspect. even if he did it, it doesn't look like they are going to find a way to link it to him. you guys see the national clearance rate on murders with no suspect after a week? how about Louisiana's rate? it would suck watching the guy become a pro bowler elsewhere.

Posted by: charlottean | May 5, 2015 12:17:49 PM

I hate jerry man every time we have a chancr to sign a great player with little charactor concern we don't because jerry cares more about class then winning a superbowl , I know we are not getting him because we arw the panrheds we never get anyone worth while this sucks wish jerry would sell the team because he is the jlllone holding us back bro

Posted by: Ludwig | May 5, 2015 12:30:58 PM

greg hardy had plenty of character concerns before we drafted him. that's why he fell so low. he had problems when we franchised him.

we've had plenty of guys with character issues over the years and you can include smith in that category.

you guys kill me with how ungrateful you are that 1 - jerry has steered the franchise in a way that has been at the worst average.
and 2 - that jerry didn't cut and run and take that LA money when they've been offering it for years.

no guarantee we get an nfl franchise without jerry and no guarantee that charlotte becomes the city it has become without that nfl franchise as part of of the economic package.

jerry isn't anything close to a problem. worst thing he ever did was fire fox and hurney. everything else is the typical hit and miss of life. 32 nfl teams have passed on this guy multiple times including the days they have had to sign him since the draft. not just jerry.

Posted by: charlottean | May 5, 2015 1:26:37 PM

I would just sign him now with a clause that if he is arrested he is waived.

Posted by: Dom | May 5, 2015 5:21:50 PM

So, a tackle would have fell to the Panthers if Collins hadn't got into this mess. The answer is simple. Subject Collins to a lie detector test. If he passes, offer him a contract similar to what he would have received if he had been the 25th pick. Throw in all the necessary qualifiers (if you are charged..., you repay everything...) and sign the guy.

Posted by: Ben | May 6, 2015 8:08:26 PM

he signed with Dallas .Take article down

Posted by: keith webb | May 10, 2015 4:06:35 PM

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