With the next “big” date on the NFL calendar looming in just over three weeks with “June 1st cuts”, the Doug Free contract stalemate will soon come to a resolution. I was fortunate enough to cover the Dallas Cowboys Home Run Derby at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Wednesday afternoon. After each participant finished their ten at-bats in the first round, the player would then proceed to come over to the first base dugout where the media was congregating.
All of the players were asked the full spectrum of questions over a three to four minute span, yet Free’s session pretty much centered on his contract situation. Naturally, Free pretty much did his best to dodge these questions and was very evasive. Comments such as “I don’t know anything about it”, and “really nothing to talk about right now” were made. Thus his session was much shorter than the other players as it was obvious the media was not going to let this subject go unanswered, and the player looked uncomfortable at the charity event with how the line of questioning was going. As with all situations in life, there are always two sides to a story, so let’s take a brief look at each side.
Doug Free Side
Free’s camp has come to the realization that he cannot continue to be the NFL’s highest paid right tackle. With the performance he has had on the field since inking his four year extension in the summer of 2011, a cut in pay is now forthcoming. Free would have most likely been more agreeable if the cut was only one or two million off his seven million due for 2013. However, reports have surfaced that the Cowboys are looking to cut his salary in at least half, and have him earn somewhere between $3 to $4 million next season. Free’s camp has been stalling and trying to negotiate a higher salary, and are also hopeful that other free agent tackles continue to come off the market as well. Tyson Clabo was signed by the Miami Dolphins this past weekend, and he was the prominent target if the Cowboys were to sign someone from the outside. Other names linked with the team have been Eric Winston and Max Starks. If all the viable free agent options get signed, that strengthens Free’s negotiating power, and thus the delay on his side.
The Dallas Cowboys Side
They too are letting this stalemate drag on. Yet they are looking at it from a different angle. They feel that as all of the teams in need of a starting/swing tackle get their needs filled, then Free “must” take what they are offering. If he does not, he could be forced to take veterans minimum type of deal that is only for one year in length.
Regardless, this will reach its conclusion very soon. All parties involved want closure, but would like to continue the relationship going forward. Free has spent his entire career as a Cowboy, and by him being involved in the charity event on Wednesday with the proceeds going to the Salvation Army, this is a good sign. All the nine players that participated are very prominent players on the team, so one should deduce with his inclusion at the event that Free and the team will finalize the details shortly. The Cowboys are trying to tighten up their belt salary wise as they will most likely look to extend Sean Lee this summer and Dez Bryant not too long after.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH