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SAN ANTONIO -- When the Dallas Cowboys proclaim a player to be their top priority to re-sign, they never let him leave.
They have done that over the last few years with DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin and late Tuesday night they did the same with left tackle Doug Free.
According to multiple sources, Free and the Cowboys have agreed to a four-year deal worth $32 million, including $17 million guaranteed. Free will not be able to practice until Aug. 4 when the league year starts, but he will be allowed to attend meetings in San Antonio.
The move ends a crazy day for the offensive line in which Leonard Davis was cut, right tackle Marc Colombo was almost cut and the team held contract talks with left guard Kyle Kosier.
Because the Cowboys chose not to use the franchise tag on Free in March, which would have paid him $10.1 million in 2011, they had to get a deal done quickly. Several teams had significant interest in Free, but he chose to remain with the Cowboys.
Free started every game at left tackle in 2010 after the team released long-time starter and five-time Pro Bowler Flozell Adams. He got off to a fast start by holding Washington's Brian Orakpo, Chicago's Julius Peppers and Houston's Mario Williams without a sack in the first three games.
At 27, the Cowboys believe Free will only get better because he does not have much wear on his tires. The relative short length of the deal means Free could have another crack at free agency in 2015.
A fourth-round pick in 2007, Free did not see any meaningful playing time until Colombo suffered a fractured fibula and high ankle sprain at Green Bay on Nov. 15, 2009. He started the final seven games at right tackle and played in a reserve role in the divisional playoff loss to Minnesota at left tackle after Adams got hurt.
Had the Cowboys not kept Free, they likely would have had rookie Tyron Smith, who has not signed, start at left tackle to protect Tony Romo's blindside or sign a veteran free agent.
Free's return could impact Colombo, who met with Jones on Tuesday morning. Sources indicated that Colombo might return at a lower price, however, it is still possible he could be released.Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.