Doug Free probably feels like the odd man out at times.
When people are effusing praise on the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line they always mention the three first-round picks; Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. They will also often talk about La'el Collins, the first-round talent who went undrafted due to unusual circumstances. Free may get a token mention as an experienced veteran, but often he is taken for granted.
Entering his 10th season, the veteran right tackle is still solidified in his position. There is no reserve player who appears able to challenge him. Even Chaz Green, who Dallas spent a third-round pick on in 2015, is reportedly moving to guard.
Nobody thinks Free is an elite player. He has limitations in pass protection and is still one of the most penalized players on the team. That said, Free is an excellent run blocker. With the Cowboys drafting Ezekiel Elliott and clearly looking to lean on the rushing attack like they did in 2014, Free's value is still high in Dallas.
It's next year when things get interesting. Free's contract becomes an attractive salary cap-clearing option; $6.5 million cap hit and only $1.5 in dead money for a savings of $5 million. Dallas will have a fresh offseason with which to consider drafting or signing a replacement.
Drafting a replacement for Free may sound risky. Unless it's one of the top talents in the class, the idea of inserting a rookie into the starting lineup is rightfully concerning. I don't think the Cowboys would go this route, especially if Tony Romo is still their quarterback.
Free agency (no pun intended) would be the likely option. The question is if you can find a worthy replacement for Free without eating up all of the cap savings you earned by releasing him. If not, then is it really worth doing?
Contracts for offensive tackles are far more lucrative than interior linemen. For example, Jermey Parnell left Dallas last year with a 5-year, $32 million deal from Jacksonville. This was a guy who was never as good as Free in Dallas, and yet he ended up making about the same money.
It will likely to come down to what specific players the Cowboys see in the 2017 free agent pool. If they spot somebody who they think they can sign to a bargain contract and still get close to the same production value out of, they should strongly consider the deal.
According to OverTheCap.com, Free is just below the Top 10 in right tackle salaries. His skill as a run blocker is equal to that but his pass protection is not. In the NFL you are always gauging performance against salary and Free has always lived on the borderline.
There's a strong possibility, of course, that Free will stick around in 2017 as his contract expires. That would afford Dallas the chance to draft their next right tackle who could develop for a season behind the veteran. This is the most likely scenario based on present information.
However, when we get to the next offseason, Free's contract will still stick out as one of the more profitable cap casualties. We will certainly be addressing this topic again.
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
REPORT: Police Detain Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford After Bar Fight
According to TMZ, Tyrone Crawford was involved in a brawl at a bar in Panama City, FL last Friday night. The Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman and team captain was detained by police but apparently was not arrested.
The level of Crawford's involvement has not been substantiated, but TMZ's report does have him shoving police officers at some point in the action. The incident was reportedly captured by surveillance equipment at the bar.
Given that he was not arrested, one could assume that Tyrone was not one of the primary players in the melee. But that doesn't mean the NFL won't still review this matter as it relates to the personal conduct policy, and Cowboys fans know too well how "fair" that process can be.
This is certainly not a story you'd expect to see attached to Tyrone Crawford, who has been a model citizen and leader since entering the league in 2012.
Dallas elected to keep Crawford this season despite solid potential savings. He will count $10.1 million against their 2019 salary cap, which is high for his average production. However, he can play multiple positions and is one of their most experienced players.
Even if Tyrone were to get suspended by the league, it likely wouldn't be more than a one or two-game ban given his record and reputation. It shouldn't change anything about his status with the team.
REPORT: Cowboys Visiting With Free Agent S Eric Berry Tuesday
According to Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys have a meeting scheduled to visit with Free Agent Safety Eric Berry Tuesday at The Star.
Source: Former #Chiefs S and new free agent Eric Berry is visiting the #Cowboys on Tuesday. His first visit. They have a need there...
Eric Berry has spent his entire career with the Kansas City Chiefs after they drafted him fifth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. After signing Earl Thomas last week, the Chiefs decided to part ways with their former All-Pro Safety.
Berry, 30 is an intriguing free agent for the Dallas Cowboys. When healthy, he is arguably one of the best safeties in the league. Unfortunately, injuries have kept him off the field these last few seasons causing him to only start in only three games since 2016.
This is a move many of us expected to happen after the Cowboys decided not to get into a bidding war for Earl Thomas, a player linked to Dallas for over a year now. In Berry, Cowboys Nation would be getting a similar player with the same kind of red flags. Both Thomas and Berry have to be approached with caution due to their injury history the past few years.
Depending on his asking price, Eric Berry absolutely makes sense for the Dallas Cowboys. He would be an upgrade over Jeff Heath and would pair well with the Cowboys up-and-coming three-year safety Xavier Woods.
This is still just a visit, so we should probably get our hopes up that a signing is imminent. But, I think we can all agree Eric Berry is exactly the "right kind of guy" Jason Garrett is always preaching about. He's a cancer survivor, five-time Pro Bowler, and All-Pro player. What's not to like!?
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