It was March 1st, a full 10 days ago, when our own Mike Fisher tweeted that sources were telling him that Dallas Cowboys right tackle Doug Free was considering retirement after a 10-year run with the team. In the days that followed many discounted his report; even COO Stephen Jones was quoted saying that the team was preparing for Free to be their right tackle for the 2017 season.
Now 10 days later, multiple outlets are catching up, saying that Free has informed the team that he does indeed intend to retire from the NFL.
The impact of this on the team is multi-faceted. In terms of cap space, this “Frees” up $5 Million in cap space as his cap number is reduced from $7.5 Million to $2.5 Million. This money is available immediately and could be used to sure up the defensive side of the ball.
On the field, you can now consider right tackle to be a big question that needs to be answered, while Free received a lot of mostly undue grief over the past few years, he has been a steady force on the line for a long time. In terms of his replacement? In 2015 the Cowboys drafted Chaz Green in the third round with this exact situation in mind, and he has proven himself capable of filling in along the line when needed, but he’s now been injured seven times in the last five years (including college), and it’s impossible to depend on him to be able to be healthy for a full 16 games. Starting guards La’el Collins and Zack Martin each played tackle in college and could be options to move outside, but the team has been hesitant to do so to this point, preferring the upside of each at guard instead of tackle.
It’s not a great year to need a tackle in the draft, as the class isn’t considered top-heavy or deep, but considering the Cowboys believe the offensive line to be the foundation of their team, it’s doubtful they leave the position up in the air, increasing the possibility of either shuffling bodies or devoting some money and potentially some draft capital to shore it up.