Follow The Fan: Facebook | Twitter

FRISCO (105.3 THE FAN) – The Dallas Cowboys think Doug Free is a quality right tackle whose reputation is sullied mostly because he might be only the fifth-best player on the NFL’s best offensive line.

READ MORE: Forest Hill Officer Arrested In Deadly Shooting Of Stabbing Suspect

So the reason they can’t fully count on him in 2017 isn’t because he lacks ability; it’s because he’s considering retirement.

A source close to Free tells me the 33-year-old, while likely to play his 11th season, has considered leaving football. The main reason: Dealing with the various aches and pains and injuries that he’s valiantly played through … and will have to play through again assuming he continues with the Cowboys.

READ MORE: Invasive Beetle Attacking North Texas Ash Trees

The Cowboys have a money-saving option if Free departs. But that’s not at all the way the club leans. COO Stephen Jones said Tuesday from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that “we feel good about Doug coming back.’’

If that happens, Free plays right tackle and unproven Chaz Green continues to work toward being the future there. La’el Collins — who does have tackle-related position flex — plays left guard. The trio of All-Pros (Tyron Smith at left tackle, Travis Frederick at center and Zack Martin at right guard) will allow this to again be the NFL’s best line, even as Ronald Leary surely departs via free agency.

There is just enough uncertainly behind them, though, and just enough uncertainty about Green, that the team will certainly consider selecting a tackle in the 2017 NFL Draft.

MORE NEWS: With COVID-19 Cases 'Skyrocketing' In Dallas County, Risk Level Bumped Up To 'Red'

And in the hopefully unlikely case Doug Free opts to retire? Dallas would have yet more uncertainly and yet another reason to draft an O-lineman.