Dallas Cowboys: Branden Albert

We're down to two for the national championship in college basketball and while we think about who wins between Michigan and Louisville, let's review our weekend mailbag.


ESPN Insider Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Tony Romo's contract extension and what needs to happen for Romo to lead the Cowboys to a championship.

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Q: To: Mr. Cool Cat Watkins, with Doug Free being worth $7 million dollars is there any tackles on the market right now that we could sign and instantly upgrade the line? Eric Winston or Branden Albert are available or is that not a possibility? If not a tackle who should we sign if any? Long time reader first time writer. Brandon Fuller (Malibu, Calif.)

A: Based on what Free did last season, no he's not worth his contract and he most likely will get offered a paycut. If he refuses, then expect the Cowboys to move on. As much as they like Free he struggled last season under offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. The team wants Free to become more aggressive, a player who attacks defenders and too many times he failed to do that. He almost lost his starting job in 2012 and did play well on the backend of the year. When you evaluate his entire season, you begin to wonder if he's worth coming back. Albert was franchised, so it will cost you too much to give up to get him back from a financial and draft pick standpoint. Winston is a nice pickup, however, why get a veteran player. Stick with the draft and get a younger player to build with Tyron Smith on the other side.

Q: Calvin, is it "Set-in-Stone", that Anthony Spencer will be the starting defensive end? Maybe they can get a quality 4-3 DE in free agency or the draft. This will keep Spencer at OLB. Derrick (New Port Richey, Fla.)

A: Spencer is going to be the starting defensive end because he's more effective at that spot than playing outside linebacker in a 4-3. Monte Kiffin's defensive line warrants pass rushers at all four spots and this is where Spencer comes in. Spencer played a 4-3 defensive end in college and making the move back to it isn't a problem.

Q: I see that Ronde Barber is a free agent. What is the likelihood that we could nab him, before or after the draft? I have seen Ronde excel in that Tampa 2 and be a big ballhawk. He could help out with teaching the scheme to other players as well as produce turnovers in a limited role. I'm not sold on Kenny Vaccaro should Dallas draft him. So why not bolster the safety spot with a proven guy that can still produce and bring leadership and championship experience to a secondary that could clearly use it while we figure out what we have in Matt Johnson and Barry Church? This provided he comes cheap of course. Clayton Hice (Oklahoma City)

A: Clayton, you answered your own questions here: "provided he comes cheap of course." Barber, a solid player on the backside of his career, isn't coming on the cheap. It's ok if the Cowboys keep younger players at certain positions, especially safety. What has veteran players gotten them over the years? I do like what Gerald Sensabaugh provided them at times, but he didn't make enough plays on the ball. The Cowboys have Johnson, who displayed playmaking skills in college. So why not give him an opportunity?

Can the Cowboys trust Doug Free?

February, 14, 2013
When the Cowboys' front office meets with coaches this week at Valley Ranch, starting right tackle Doug Free's status will be a topic of discussion.

[+] EnlargeDoug Free
Jeff Fishbein/Icon SMIWould the Cowboys really consider bringing back Doug Free?
Free returned to the right tackle spot in 2012 and was inconsistent. He ended up sharing the starting job with Jermey Parnell, who impressed coaches with his athletic ability.

Coach Jason Garrett repeated during the season that Free needed to be more aggressive in his blocking. Free agreed he needed to make changes to his game and improved as the season progressed.

But the Cowboys are roughly $20 million over the salary cap for 2013 and making Free a post June 1 cut saves the franchise $7 million. But that won't happen until the summer.

The Cowboys led the NFL with 27 false start/offsides penalties. Free led the league in total penalties for an offensive linemen with 14 and in false starts with eight.

At times, Free was a nightmare to watch on the field. He was just a mess.

Can you trust him going forward?

For that matter, can you trust Parnell as the starting right tackle in 2013?

Todd Archer joins Galloway & Company to discuss Tony Romo's contract situation and Anthony Spencer's role in the Cowboys' new defensive scheme.

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The best available tackles that will be available in free agency are too expensive for the Cowboys, given they want to re-sign Anthony Spencer and extend Tony Romo's contract. Andre Smith, Sam Baker, Jake Long, Ryan Clady and Branden Albert are among the best of the free agent class for 2013.

It would cost too much to sign any of those players.

Of course, the Cowboys could use the draft to find a tackle and make the rookie compete with Parnell for the starting job at right tackle.

It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys keep Free and whether they can get him to play on a consistent level in 2013 if they do.