IRVING, Texas – With multiple needs on both sides of the ball, dwindling down the Cowboys' draft day desires wouldn't hurt.
Owner/general manager Jerry Jones indicated on March 19 at the NFL Owners Meetings that the draft won't necessarily dictate what the Cowboys do with Doug Free.
"I think there's more to it, without trying to talk in riddles," Jones said. "There's more to it. That implies a decision after the draft on Free, and we may be doing things there with our offensive line before the draft, relative to Free."
Making a decision on Free before the draft would give the Cowboys a better idea of the cap number they'll have later in the year, since he could be designated a post-June 1 cut and save the team $7 million in space at that time.
If the Cowboys know before the draft that they're going to move on from Free, then they also know drafting a right tackle becomes a high priority.
Conversely, if they move on from Free with the idea of bringing on another free agent tackle before the draft, then they know it's not crucial to select a tackle early in the draft. And if they know they want Free to stick around and compete without bringing in another free agent, then drafting a right tackle might still remain a priority in the first few rounds.
Jones said at the Owners Meetings that he could still see Free staying at his salary number and competing with Jermey Parnell or serving as the swing tackle, though that doesn't seem likely. [embedded_ad]
Free's 2012 season was one to forget, leading the team with 15 penalties, two of which were declined. The switch to right tackle from the left side was supposed to help him. Instead, a dismal year that resulted in a rotation with Parnell has reportedly led to the Cowboys negotiating with Free, one of the highest paid tackles in the league, to take a pay cut and compete at the spot or hit the open market.
Figuring out a solution at the right tackle spot before the draft would allow the team to put their focus on other spots of need, which include safety, defensive tackle and backup running back.
Whatever the Cowboys and Free ultimately decide, it'd be best if they had a plan before April 25.