- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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As tough as the cuts might have been, Jerry Jones had to be thrilled as he went to bed Tuesday night.
The Cowboys accomplished their primary offseason goal at a reasonable price. They locked up Doug Free to a four-year, $32 million deal with $17 million guaranteed, ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer reported.
That’s a reasonable price for a good left tackle who is just entering his prime, especially considering the six-year, $60.7 million deal Jason Peters signed with Philadelphia last year. You can wonder about Free’s limited track record with only one season as a starter on the left side, but he’s a 27-year-old with no health or character issues who has proven he can compete against the NFL’s premier pass rushers.
Consider that Free faced Houston’s Mario Williams, Minnesota’s Jared Allen, Chicago’s Julius Peppers and Indianapolis’ Dwight Freeney last season. The quartet of elite defensive ends -- all of whom have eight-figure salaries -- combined for a grand total of two tackles and one sack against Free.
As the protector of the quarterback’s blind side, left tackle is the most important position on the offensive line. It’s a position worth paying a premium price. Free probably could have forced the Cowboys into a bidding war, particularly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rumored to be interested in spending some of their ample salary cap space on him.
However, Free opted to stay with the Cowboys, signing a contract that compensates him well but won’t keep Jones and Co. from plugging the other holes on the roster. The risk of not using the franchise tag on Free didn't cost the Cowboys.
Jerry has said on several occasions that the left tackles in his ownership tenure – Mark Tuinei, Larry Allen and Flozell Adams – have allowed him to sleep well at night. That will continue for at least the next four years.