Free was scheduled to make $7 million this season and count $10.02 million against the salary cap, but the new two-year deal opens up salary-cap room for the Cowboys and allows Free to remain with the team that drafted him in 2007.
He will make $3.5 million in each of the next two seasons. His salary in 2013 is guaranteed, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder.
Free’s new contract clears roughly $3.5 million in salary-cap space, which the Cowboys could use in extension talks for linebacker Sean Lee, who is an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Free has started 48 consecutive games since 2010 but struggled in his return to right tackle in 2012, which led to the salary reduction. In 2011, Free signed a four-year, $32 million deal, including $17 million guaranteed.
Apparently, the Cowboys’ flirtations with free agent right tackle Eric Winston were done with, though I am not sure they should have been. With the new-found money, it might make sense to pursue Winston for the tackle position and move Free inside, to guard. Free gets beat in space. He is a little tall for the guard spot, but experts believe he can play there and enjoy more success than on the edge.
The Cowboys would not have to ask Free to take a pay cut, if they were better able to self-evaluate. As Gregg Rosenthal observes:
This marks yet another misadventure by the Cowboys in self-scouting. They overpaid Free, and then were forced to change course. Jones often hypes his own players, and then he winds up paying for it.
If you are among Cowboys fans leery of trusting the health of suddenly insanely wealthy quarterback of the present and the future, Tony Romo, to the too-often over-matched Doug Free, too bad.
Free is not free to leave, which means left defensive ends may feel free to knock Romo into the middle of next week, or even the end his career.
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