Two week ago, Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan first reported that veteran right tackle Doug Free was considering retirement.
Many Cowboys fans at the time were hoping that "considering" retirement simply meant that Free was mulling his options, not that retirement was imminent.
But that looks to have changed.
Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas is reporting that Doug Free informed the team of his intent to retire.
The Cowboys will have another hole to fill. Right tackle Doug Free has informed the team he intends to retire, according to sources. Free, 33, has started every game he has played since 2010 and has been the right tackle since 2012. The Cowboys drafted Chaz Green in the third round in 2015 but he has battled hip, foot and back injuries his first two seasons.
The Cowboys had been holding out hope that Free wouldn't retire, but Stephen Jones explained recently that the team has drawn up a contingency plan in case Free does retire.
“Our projection is Doug is going to come back, and he’s our starting right tackle,” Jones said, via the Star-Telegram. “We’ve visited about [Collins playing right tackle]. Obviously right now, we feel good about Doug coming back and being able to do that. But if Doug were to retire or not be around or if something happened to him, then yeah, we’ve visited about who would have the best chance to go outside of our inside guys."
“I think [Collins] would certainly be an option.”
“Obviously if we don’t get Leary re-signed, which will be difficult, then we see La’el as our starting guard.”
With Ronald Leary now signed in Denver, that's one option that's off the table. Which leaves the Cowboys with La'el Collins and the oft-injured Chaz Green as options at the spot.
While the Cowboys will look to plug the hole at right tackle over the coming weeks and months, Free's decision does have one immediate impact: it will create extra cap space for the Cowboys.
Free currently has a cap hit of $7.5 million, and his retirement will create $5 million in extra cap space, even if $2.5 million will remain as dead money.
The offseason just got a little more interesting.
While this news may have come as a big surprise for most observers, it looks like the team had know about this for a while, maybe even quite a while.