Friday, March 1, 2013

Are the Dallas Cowboys ready to set Doug Free?

Will the Cowboys release Doug Free after signing him to a big contract a couple of years ago? The answer is not as simple as it sounds.

Your Dallas Cowboys have some big fish to fry before the season begins:
  1. They have changed from the 3-4 to the 4-3 on defense. With Anthony Spencer, the team’s leading tackler from 2012, a free agent, the Cowboys need to either franchise him (which will cost roughly $10 million), sign him to a long-term contract or move on. Before they decide what to do with Spencer, they have to decide whether he will be effective as a defensive end in a 4-3 versus his natural position as a 3-4 outsider linebacker.
  2. They have to address a porous offensive line that gave up 36 sacks (how did Romo survive?) and produced a paltry average of 3.6 yards per carry on the ground.
  3. They are currently $30 million over the cap.
One place the Cowboys may look for cap relief is at right tackle. Two years ago, after Doug Free had a breakout year at left tackle, the Cowboys signed him to a big contract. Then They drafted Tyron Smith and moved Free to right tackle, where he struggled mightily. Free had eight fals starts and seven holding penalties in 2012, giving him the lead in penalties accrued among NFL tackles. The reason you jump the snap and hold defenders is simple: You are getting beat. By season’s end, Free found himself in a rotation at RT with Jeremy Parnell. That is how far his once-shining star had fallen.

Nick Eatman of writes:
If the Cowboys cut Free right now as a straight release, he would not count anything against the cap either way, as a complete wash. But to save some money, the Cowboys could designate him a June 1 release and save $7 million off this year’s cap. Then next year, Free would count $7 million as dead money in 2014.
Freeing up money is just one issue. There is still the issue of plugging holes in one of the NFL’s leakiest lines.
Apparently, however, owner Jerry Jones does not think having a good offensive line is all that big of a deal, as long as you have Tony Romo at QB:
“If you’re going to have a guy…that can handle a porous offensive line, it’s Tony,” Jones said. “Tony has some of the best percentages operating behind pressure situation of anyone in the NFL. If there were a place theoretically that you had to have a weakness with Tony Romo at quarterback, that might be a place to have it. You just can’t’ have it all.”
I am not even going to get into whether or not this is proof solid that the world’s wackiest billionaire has finally lost his entire mind and is officially ready for the rest home or maybe even a rubber room and a strait jacket.

For the moment, I just wonder what will become of Doug Free and whether it matters at all. Whatever the Cowboys brain trust (I use the term lightly) decides to do with Doug, it won’t be cheap…and it sure ain’t free.

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