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Mailbag: How Much Has Guard Play Affected Free?

Doug Free seemed to have a difficult year. How much of his struggles can be attributed to the lack of production of the guards? He seemed to play better with Kosier and not having to worry about what was happening inside.

Nick: I would bet there is something to that notion, but overall, I think teams and defensive ends have figured him out and know how to beat him. He has struggled in the last two years and while he's serviceable, that's not the word you're looking for in a guy averaging $8 million per season. Something has to change there and it'll probably be his role with the team.

Rowan: It can't help him when the guards are struggling as well. Take Doug Free out of the starting lineup and it's not like everything's fixed on this offensive line. The same can be said for taking out one of the guards. There are a lot of problems there, but it would definitely help him out if he had elite talents playing next to him. Still, if he was playing to his potential the level the Cowboys thought they'd get when they paid him, the players next to him wouldn't matter as much.

With the Cowboys discipline issues with players, how much stock is taken in a player's off the field background come draft time?

Nick: I think a lot of stock is put in there. Sometimes I wonder if too much stock. We're always hearing about taking "the right kind of guy" but it can't be an entire team of choirboys. There needs to be a good, solid mix of it. The Cowboys were winning back in the 90's with guys who weren't exactly teaching Sunday School. There has to be a good balance of both.

Rowan:  I think probably more stock now with Jason Garrett as head coach. Part of me would be surprised if any players with a history of drug use or off the field issues got brought in to team in this year's draft. But it's all relative. If a top talent drops a few rounds, the risk of selecting him also diminishes. There's no doubt, though, that the baggage a player brings with him from his past will affect his stock significantly to the Cowboys.

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