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Ellis: Free Contract A Shrewd One

Timing, as they say, is everything, and the Cowboys had very good timing when - as reports indicate - they  agreed to re-sign free agent tackle Doug Free late Tuesday night.

The longer Free remained available, the greater chance opposing teams had to try to woo him. But it wasn't just important that the Cowboys got the deal done before other teams could pounce - it was crucial that they got him re-signed, period.

As much trouble as the Cowboys have had cultivating their own offensive line draft picks over the last decade, it would've been devastating to lose one of just a couple direct hits they've had, Free joining a short list that includes Andre Gurode and Flozell Adams.

We're hearing from some of you who were not convinced by Free's play as a starter over the last season and a half, but $8 million for him is not unreasonable at all. The fact is he was their best lineman last year. It's the going rate, and according to some reports, it was a figure they had to reach to keep him from defecting to Tampa Bay.

And here's the deal: Free is not one of these veteran free agents the Cowboys have signed of late. Leonard Davis was 29 when he played his first game as a Cowboy in 2007, after signing that seven-year contract. Colombo was already 30 when he got his four-year extension in 2008. 

But Free is in his prime, just 27, with no history of injuries, and this contract is not his golden parachute. It's likely he will get another big pay day at age 31.

At that point, the Cowboys can reconsider the wisdom of committing big dollars to linemen entering the tail end of their career.

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