The Dallas Cowboys have been on the verge of improving their situation at right tackle since the season ended, but four months before the beginning of the 2013 NFL season, they’re still stuck with the expensive and disappointing Doug Free, while other options are being taken off the market, leaving them with Eric Winston or Winston Justice still to choose from.
Doug Free has been moved around from right tackle to left tackle and back again throughout his career, never really impressing during any stage, despite a strong start to his Cowboys career, earning him a $32 million, four-year deal. However, things have changed, and the Cowboys are looking for someone to replace him while also being a cheaper option.
They took too long to cut loose or restructure expensive deals that limited their ability in the market, not to mention waiting too long to start and end their negotiations with Tony Romo. They didn’t address the tackle issue during the draft, leaving them with three options – keeping Free and rotating him along with Jeremy Parnell, signing Eric Winston, or going for Winston Justice.
Eric Winston, coming off a so-so season with the Kansas City Chiefs following six years in Houston, is probably the best option of the three, but also the most expensive one. He has already visited the Cowboys once this off-season, but no deal was struck, although the Cowboys couldn’t afford him at the time, asking for $4 million a season. Winston Justice, also slightly disappointing in 2012 protecting Andrew Luck, hasn’t visited, but should come in at a cheaper rate.
The Cowboys would prefer Winston, hoping that it being so late in free agency will help them knock down the price a little bit. They’ve been mishandling their offensive line situation for a very long time, including in the recent draft, picking a Center they probably could have grabbed with a third round pick. If they have the money, they shouldn’t risk having another subpar season from Free, instead opting to take the best player on the board, Eric Winston.