- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.
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?
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.