Position Battles: Who Replaces Retired Doug Free At Right Tackle In 2017?

(Editor's Note: The NFL Draft has come and gone. Now it's time to see what the Cowboys have to work with. The roster is nearly full and that should mean a healthy dose of competition – at all positions. Over the next two weeks, the writers of DallasCowboys.com will focus on each position to find the most intriguing battles as we head into the offseason practices. Today, we continue the series with right tackle.)

Battle To Watch: We know All-Pro Tyron Smith is a fixture at left tackle. Right tackle is one of the roster's biggest question marks. Doug Free reliably manned the right side for last five seasons and six of the last eight. Now that he's officially on the Reserve/Retired list, where do the Cowboys turn?

La'el Collins appears to be in the conversation. Team officials have said this offseason they'd like to keep Collins at left guard, at least to start, coming off a toe injury that limited him to three games last season. Collins told reporters Sunday that he's been working exclusively at right tackle as the Cowboys begin Phase 2 of their voluntary offseason program, which includes team work on a "separates" basis with no offense vs. defense drills.

At LSU, Collins became the starting left guard his sophomore year, but he started 25 games at left tackle in his final two college seasons.

Another candidate: Chaz Green, whom the Cowboys drafted in the third round two years ago as possibly a future replacement for Free. Hip surgery sidelined Green for most of his rookie year, and although he made two solid starts for an injured Smith at left tackle last year, he dealt with a foot injury and had back surgery in December, ending his second season early.

Don't Forget About: Byron Bell. The Cowboys signed the five-year veteran to a one-year contract in March after reports surfaced that Free was considering retirement. Bell has 72 career starts (primarily at tackle) with the Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans, though he did start seven games at left guard for Tennessee in 2015. If Collins moves to tackle permanently, Jonathan Cooper is another candidate to play left guard now that Ronald Leary has departed for the Denver Broncos.

Bubble Watch: It's barely May, so it's very early in the game. Every player has a chance to win a spot and even the most experienced players will have to earn their spot. But for now, here's how an unofficial depth chart might look for the players who are officially on the roster (the team is expected to sign a group of undrafted rookies in time for this weekend's rookie minicamp):

Locks:
Tyron Smith (LT)
La'el Collins

Contenders:
Chaz Green
Byron Bell
Emmett Cleary

Long Shots:
Clay DeBord

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