May 092013

Dallas Cowboys: Doug Free, Eric Winston and high-stakes O-Line poker

Storified by Gene· Thu, May 09 2013 07:16:20

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Dallas CowboysDoomsDaddy
Doug Free or Eric Winston? That is the question begging for an answer as June 1 approaches. Free, the six year veteran right tackle who struggled horribly last season, is set to make roughly $7 million in the coming campaign. The Cowboys want him to agree to a salary reduction more commiserate with what other guys at his position will play for, especially in light of his production issues. If he does, he will likely stay. If not, the Cowboys may make a move.
The scuttlebutt has been that the Cowboys were interested in free agents Tyson Clabo or Eric Winston as Free’s replacement.  Both had better 2012 campaigns than did Free. The Miami Dolphins, however, took Clabo off the market over the weekend. 
That leaves Winston. 

The Cowboys shored up the interior line a little bit in the NFL Draft. Most pundits had the Cowboys taking two or maybe three offensive linemen to improve one of the team’s weakest units, especially in light of the $108 million contract given to QB Tony Romo. But the Cowboys only took one offensive lineman, center Travis Frederick. 
Consequently the biggest question remaining, personnel-wise, is the one at right tackle. Who will it be? Doug Free? Eric Winston? Or, will old Arkansas Razorbacks lineman Jerry Jones suit up and play it himself in the interest of saving money? He does, after all, insist in being involved in all aspects of football operations.
The scuttlebutt is there is no answer…yet. Since you should not be bothered to Google and bing your way around the Internet to find out what is up with Jones, Free, Winston and your Cowboys, I have leveraged my sources and delivered all the news that is news on the subject right here. 
You are welcome.

Doug Free says there is nothing to talk about

Doug Free: Nothing to talk aboutARLINGTON, Texas — Starting right tackle Doug Free said there was nothing to talk about concerning his future with the Dallas Cowboys on…
What is Doug Free’s future with the Cowboys? Don’t ask him | Dallas Cowboys | L…Doug Free might be back. He might not be. He might take a pay cut. He might not. The right tackle offered little of substance about his f…
“I’m just happy to be here … but you never know what might happen.” – Doug Free

Former Scout Bryan Broaddus expects movement on the Free front soon

Ex-scout Bryan Broaddus: The whole idea for the Cowboys is not to let Doug Free ‘hold them hostage’On if the Cowboys will cut Doug Free: "I think Monday, we’re going to come to the head of the deal here. I think the Cowboys have been pr…
Broaddus thought something would go down Monday. That was three days ago. He was wrong on that. Regarding Free’s poor play, he said he started out playing well, but has suffered where technique is concerned and is not buying into Bill Callahan’s coaching:

“He started off very good for the first couple of years of his career. He started off playing right tackle then playing left tackle. All of a sudden, his technique became very poor and then you compound that with problems with strength and things like that. Again, when you watch Free play, he can be very athletic, but then you watch him miss with his punch. If he’s not able to slow somebody down with his hands and lets somebody get into his chest, he’s going to go backwards, and that’s the problem that he has. There were some things Bill Callahan was trying to do with him technique wise, and Doug wasn’t really buying into all that.”

Former scout Glenn “Stretch” Smith says the Cowboys could keep Free and still add Winston

Ex-Cowboys scout: How Dallas could keep Doug Free and sign Eric WinstonAfter picking just one linemen during last month’s NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys are still trying to cobble together an offensive line co…
Smith thinks the Cowboys preferred Winston to Clabo, as the more athletic of the two. He says, contingent on Free accepting the pay cut, he could see moving Free to guard and adding Winston to play right tackle:

But even if Free agrees to reduce his salary to stay with the Cowboys, Smith said the team could still find a way to fit Winston into the fold by moving Free inside to guard. Free’s lack of lateral speed wouldn’t be as much of a problem on the interior line, but some have wondered if his height would be a hindrance for Free while trying to drive block defensive tackles in the running game.

Smith doesn’t have those concerns.

“The difference with him being 6’8” is he’s not a long, lower-body kid. When you get in trouble inside at 6’8″ is when you can’t sit and you can’t anchor,” Smith said. “When you’re real low and guys can pick you up and get up under your pads and you can’t play with that leverage, Doug Free is not that way. He’s kind of like [Jonathan] Ogden used to be. He’s a 6’8″ kid, but he’s not all legs, and he can anchor a little bit inside. I don’t think this would be a give-up situation at all to move him to guard.”

Who will it be? Doug Free? Eric Winston? Both?  Doug Free doesn’t know…or he isn’t saying. The Cowboys are not showing their hand, either. The team is holding all the cards except the wild card, which if Eric Winston. If another team scoops him up, the odds favor Free.

However it comes out, the winner needs to be the fans…and winner take all.