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Mailbag: Managing The Salary Cap? Concern About Doug Free's Future?

MICHAEL LAMBERTVIRGINIA BEACH, VA
With the salary cap coming out, the Cowboys are just barely below. As a matter of fact, I saw where they were the tightest with the least money to spend. They have 20 free agents, meaning they have holes to fill. How are they going to address much of anything with very little money to spend?

David:If I had to guess, I'd bet they're not done moving money around. There are still some things they can do to free up space, and they have plenty of time to do it – because you're making a mistake if you're thinking the Cowboys are going to start throwing big contracts around on Day 1 of free agency. I think they're going to let the market settle and make some smart, affordable signings. That means they're probably going to lose several of their free agents, but that's the cost of doing business. They'll have enough space to do the things they want to do.

Rob: They recently restructured the contracts of Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick and could always restructure more. Those cap-related moves did create space, but to your question, this is one reason nobody should expect them to be major free-agent players. Over and over again, they've shown an inclination to prioritize their own free agents first, and with 20 of them, you can't just let nearly half your roster walk. Have to think several of them will be back.

DONALD LEWISWASHINGTON D.C.
Why are people so anxious to replace Doug Free? He's not an All-Pro, but he's not a stiff either. I think he's played well in the games that I've seen.

David:The average fan doesn't pay attention to an offensive lineman unless he's getting flagged, and Free led the team in flags last year. I think your assessment is dead-on. Free is a veteran and a solid starter in this league, but he has the unfortunate distinction of playing on a line full of Pro Bowlers. I have my doubts that the Cowboys will look to keep him around past the 2017 season, but I think he'll be a valuable piece of this year's team while the front office sorts out a plan for the future of that position.

Rob: Free has had some injuries in recent years but he's tough and has shown he can still get the job done on the right side. He's one of the most respected guys on the roster and helped the development of Zeke and Dak last season. Eventually the Cowboys will need to turn the page. But there's not clear replacement option on the current roster if La'el Collins is going to stay at guard. Chaz Green was drafted to be groomed as a future starter, and he still might be, but injuries have sidetracked him in his first two seasons.

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