Position Series: Right Tackle Starter Uncertain; Could Draft Produce Competition?

(Editor's Note: April is here, which means the first wave of free agency has passed and the NFL Draft is just around the corner. DallasCowboys.com's 11-part series analyzes every position on the Cowboys' roster at this point in the offseason: free-agent additions and subtractions, draft possibilities, returning players and question marks. The series continues with offensive tackle.)

Roster Holdovers: It's hard to believe Tyron Smith just made his fourth Pro Bowl and he's still only 26 years old. The line's anchor for the majority of his five seasons in Dallas, Smith made first-team All-Pro again last season alongside center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin.

There will be change at right tackle if Doug Free makes retirement official, though. Chaz Green, a third-round pick two years ago, would get the opportunity to compete for the job.

Fellow offensive tackle Emmett Cleary also provided depth last season. He's signed through 2017.

Free Agency Overview: The Cowboys signed five-year veteran tackle Byron Bell in late March as reports surfaced that Free is heading for retirement. No official announcement has been made, though indications are the 10-year veteran intends to call it a career after dealing with foot and ankle injuries in recent years and undergoing surgery the previous two offseasons.

"Doug Free's a great football player," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said at the NFL Annual Meeting. "He'd play 10 more years if he was healthy, but he's been dealing with a number of things in his body the last few years and in his mind it was time to move on."

Bell has 72 career starts for the Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans. He has played primarily tackle but did start seven games at left guard for the Titans in 2015.

Draft Outlook: Most draft observers don't view this year's offensive tackle class as particularly deep. The top prospects include Alabama's Cam Robinson, Utah's Garett Bolles and Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk. If Free isn't back, the Cowboys' alternatives could extend beyond veterans such as Bell and Green. Collins and Martin both played tackle in college, though Garrett has said ideally he'd prefer both to focus on guard first.

Time To Shine: Green joined the Cowboys in 2015 projected as a swing tackle and future starter. Hip surgery sidelined him for most of his rookie year. Last season he played well in two starts for Smith at left tackle, but he was limited by a foot injury and then his season ended early due to back surgery. If Free indeed retires, he'll have the opportunity to win the job at right tackle.

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