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Wednesday, March 2, 2011
What the tender offers mean

By Calvin Watkins

Several agents don't believe some of the tender contract offers NFL teams gave to players in the last few days will mean anything.

The uncertainty of the collective bargaining agreement, with the deadline to get one completed on March 3 fast approaching, is raising questions.

Will players with four years experience go back to restricted free agent status or become unrestricted? What about players with five years experience?

Even the franchise tags that are placed. Will they mean anything?

So many questions.

The Cowboys, like most teams, had to make some decisions regarding their free agents and we review some of them.

Doug Free.

The Cowboys placed a first-and-third round tender on Free, meaning an opposing team would give up two draft picks for the left tackle. The Cowboys did this last year with wide receiver Miles Austin. In a mini-protest if you will, he missed the first few days of the offseason workouts and didn't sign the tender until just before the deadline.

Austin said it wasn't a protest, but the team worked out a long-term deal with him that made everybody happy. The Cowboys have held preliminary talks with Free's agent, Jimmy Sexton, about a new deal, and have until March 3 to work something out.

The tender on Free is a cheaper move for the organization. A franchise tag would give Free a $10.1 million salary instead of the $3.5 million he's going to receive in 2011.

Sam Hurd

The Cowboys didn't do anything with the wide receiver and this is a good thing. While Hurd was a strong special teams player, his request for a trade after the team drafted Dez Bryant and his inability to progress as a wide receiver meant it was time to move on. Hurd was a good locker room guy and helped the younger players understand how important special teams is. But there appears to be more upside with Kevin Ogletree than Hurd and if the team keeps Roy Williams another season, it means fewer snaps for Hurd.

Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen

The two backup defensive ends received second-round tenders giving each a salary of $1.934 million. It's a safe play for Bowen because there's a strong chance the Cowboys draft a defensive end with the ninth pick of the draft. If that's the case, Bowen can either backup the rookie or come in on some nickel packages. Hatcher has never caught on here and if anything he's insurance in the event the Cowboys don't get that defensive end.

Alan Ball

The starting free safety struggled last season. Ball received the original round tender of about $1.4 million. A team would have to give up a seventh-round pick for Ball and that appears doubtful. Ball was originally drafted as a cornerback and should return to that role where his athletic ability allows him to make more plays when covering somebody. He did get better at reacting to the ball as the season progressed, but it was too late.