INDIANAPOLIS – It's a good rule of thumb not to buy too much into rumors around this time of year, and the Cowboys saw a great example of that Wednesday.
Word surfaced around the NFL Combine on Wednesday morning that long-time right tackle Doug Free was mulling retirement. That speculation was most likely inferred from comments by Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones on Tuesday, when he said La'el Collins could possibly play tackle "if Doug were to retire or not be around."
To hear it from the Cowboys, though, there's no expectation that Free is going anywhere in 2017. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said as much when he was asked about it directly at his Wednesday media availability.
"I do not know of any talk of retirement in regards to Doug Free," Garrett said. "We had a good visit after the season."
It makes sense to think why some would wonder about Free's longevity, given his career trajectory. He was drafted in the fourth round all the way back in 2007 and just finished his 11th NFL season. He has also battled injuries in recent seasons. Most notably, he missed five games with various injuries during the 2014 campaign.
Garrett allowed that Free likely wants some time to recover from the grind of another season, but he didn't think the issue went any further.
"He like all the players, they wanted to get away for a little while then get themselves recharged and come back to work," he said. "I don't anticipate anything other than that."
Free has one year remaining on the $15 million contract he signed in 2015. The Cowboys also drafted Chaz Green 92nd overall in 2015 to help shore up the position. And, as Jones mentioned, there's also the possibility of shifting Collins outside if needed.[embeddedad0]
For the time being, though, it certainly sounds like they expect Free to be part of their plans in 2017.