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Friday, July 15, 2011
Doug Free will be a hot commodity

By Calvin Watkins

When the 2010 season ended, Cowboys starting left tackle Doug Free was designated as a restricted free agent.

Doug Free/Tony Romo
If the Cowboys can't re-sign Doug Free, the team might have to call on rookie Tyron Smith to protect Tony Romo's blindside.
With the latest developments during talks for a new CBA, it now appears Free, the Cowboys' best offensive linemen, will become an unrestricted free agent.

ESPN's John Clayton is reporting the players and the owners have agreed not to place first-right-of-refusal clauses on 2011 free agents.

This means the Cowboys' tender offer of $3.5 million is null and void and they won't receive any compensation if Free signs with another team. The Cowboys also didn't place the franchise tag on Free, which might have cost about $10.1 million.

Update: But under the proposed new CBA, the Cowboys might still be able to place a franchise tag on him.

With Free becoming an unrestricted free agent, it puts the Cowboys in an interesting situation. He was always the Cowboys' No. 1 target in terms of signing long-term, but now more teams have the ability to grab him.

If the Cowboys fail to reach an agreement with Free, and there's no guarantee they will especially with the team nearly $18 million over the salary cap, it could force them to place first-round pick Tyron Smith at left tackle and keep Marc Colombo on the right side.

But Free isn't the only Cowboys' player who becomes unrestricted, defensive ends Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen join the market place as free men.

Whenever the lockout ends, the Cowboys have to make some serious decisions regarding their roster and Free is most likely the first priority.