With Free's Future Uncertain, Newly-Signed Tackle Will Create Competition

PHOENIX – Two weeks after reports surfaced that Doug Free intends to retire from football, the Cowboys signed six-year veteran Byron Bell for depth at offensive tackle this past Friday.

Speaking Sunday at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones did not confirm that Free's retirement is official. He did acknowledge Bell's signing adds competition at offensive tackle if indeed the Cowboys will be without Free, a 10-year Cowboys veteran and longtime starting right tackle.

"Obviously that's something that's real in terms of his considering retirement," Jones said. "We certainly respect that and we feel like we needed some more depth there to compete.

"Obviously we've got a guy we drafted in the (2015) third round, Chaz Green, who we feel like has a great opportunity to win that job. But he needs to be pushed. It's going to be a competitive situation there, and at the end of the day we're going to try to get our five best offensive linemen on the football field."[embeddedad0]

Green started two games at left tackle last season for an injured Tyron Smith. But hip, foot and back injuries have limited Green's availability in each of his first two seasons.

Jones said the Cowboys learned Free was considering retirement right after the NFL Scouting Combine.

The Cowboys also have backup offensive tackle Emmett Cleary on the roster. They also re-signed Jonathan Cooper for depth at guard and center after starting left guard Ronald Leary signed a free-agent contract with the Denver Broncos.

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