FRISCO, Texas -- A week ago at the scouting combine, the Dallas Cowboys were caught off-guard by a report that Doug Free was considering retirement. Now they have been informed that the veteran offensive tackle indeed intends to retire, according to multiple sources.
While there is always a possibility that Free could change his mind, it would open up another hole on the Cowboys' offensive line, with Ronald Leary signing a four-year deal with the Denver Broncos on Thursday. While the Cowboys would simply reinsert La'el Collins into the left guard spot for Leary, they don't have as clear an option at right tackle for Free.
The Cowboys could move Collins to tackle, a spot he played at LSU but not in his two years with the Cowboys, or hope the injuries that have plagued Chaz Green -- a third-round pick in 2015 -- the last two years are a thing of the past. Adding a low-cost free agent or commit to a high draft pick are options, but the draft is not stocked with top prospects this year.
Free, 33, was entering the final year of his contract and was set to make $5 million. A fourth-round pick in 2007, Free was the unquestioned leader of an offensive line that features three All-Pro selections in left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin. He has started every game he has played since 2010 but switched to right tackle in 2012, when the Cowboys moved Smith to the left side.
He has been troubled by foot and ankle injuries the last few years but managed to remain in the lineup.
The Cowboys will gain $5 million in cap relief from Free's retirement. He signed a three-year extension with the Cowboys in 2015 that was effectively a pay cut for that season. The Cowboys already had defensive needs, particularly in the secondary, but now they can add offensive line to their list of issues.