Reporting Mike Fisher
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IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) - The Dallas Cowboys’ position on the right tackle position?
It’s one driven by political correctness. One driven by open-mindedness. And one driven by leverage.
“I think there’s some interest and prospects there,” Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones tells us, “between what we have and what we could get.’’
That “interest’’ and those “prospects’’ include free agent tackle Eric Winston. Almost two weeks ago, a pair of national media outlets breathlessly suggested the Cowboys were closing in on a deal with Winston, a Texas native and an accomplished veteran of the Texans and Chiefs. The reports are no more true today than they were two weeks ago; sources continue to tell me that Dallas’ dealings with Winston are about “contact’’ not “contract’’ and that retaining incumbent Doug Free at a negotiated-down price is an option just as attractive as signing Winston.
I’m also told that the Cowboys think more highly of ex-Falcons right tackle Tyson Clabo than they do of Winston.
But Winston’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is driving this publicity train. And Jones is playing along, at least in part because the threat of a Winston signing could help convince Free to take a cap-relieving reduction.
“He’s obviously somebody we’re looking at,’’ Jones says. “(But) we certainly haven’t dismissed Doug. We really felt like when we went to rotating him and Jeremy Parnell that he really picked up his game in terms of the competition, not to mention that I think he got some clarity as to what (position coach) Bill Callahan was after.’’
Winston is on-record as being willing to sign a deal in the NFL for $3 to $4 million. Clabo would likely want more than that. Free is due $7 million this year, a salary not merited by his performance – though Dallas’ personnel department is hopeful Free can return to the level of play that earned him that contract a few years ago. If he refuses to take a paycut, Dallas can release him after June 1, opening up $7 million in cap space but creating the ballast of dead money next year.
Meanwhile – again, contrary to reports – there is no urgency to make those moves because of the possibility answers at right tackle arrive in next week’s NFL Draft.
“After … what may happen in the draft,’’ Jones says, “we’ll just have to see what happens.”
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