IRVING – One of the moving pieces in the Dallas Cowboys’ right tackle equation is moving.
Does it mean another piece is staying?
Tyson Clabo, Dallas’ top-ranked free agent tackle and an upgrade over incumbent Doug Free, is signing with Miami, according to his agent. That transaction removes some of the leverage the Cowboys may have had over Free, who as of a few days ago “anticipates not being with the Cowboys” as of June 1, a source close to Free told FOX Sports Southwest.
But here’s another puzzle piece: The Cowboys are involved in a charity effort this upcoming Wednesday. Among those scheduled to attend on behalf of the club?
Free is trying to play hardball with the Cowboys by suggesting an unwillingness to accept Dallas’ proposal that would substantially reduce his $7 million salary but allow him to likely retain his job starting at right tackle.
June 1 is the day Dallas can release Free and suffer the least amount of cap damage, as his $10-million impact will be allowed to be spread over two seasons. It is clear Dallas prefers to retain Free (but at its desired price). That’s not just a matter of correcting an overpayment on him; it’s also a matter of freeing up cap space that can be used, for instance, to lock up linebacker Sean Lee with a rich extension.
We think that (Jermey) Parnell and Free … put us in great shape at our tackles,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said last week, citing the two players who rotated at right tackle at the end of last season. “We have a way here that Doug could flourish …”
That “way” is to cease overpaying him.
The Cowboys still have leverage in the form of at least two other veteran tackles on the market. They include Texas native Eric Winston (who is on-record as saying he’d sign for one year and $3 mil) and Winston Justice. The Cowboys personnel department tells me neither of them represent true upgrades over Free.
It’s been suggested to me that Free will be made to know that Dallas wants a response before Monday.
“We want him back,” Dallas exec Stephen Jones said of Free. “We’d love to have him here. I think he’d love to be here.”
Maybe by Monday, Doug Free will be a Cowboy. Certainly by Wednesday he will be … in the form of being a charity-minded Cowboys volunteer.