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By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants, Week 17: Where Should Doug Free Play?

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Jonathan Bales

I recently published another piece at the Dallas Observer.  Head over there to check it out.  It details four points from Sunday night’s loss, explaining how they will affect Dallas in 2012.  Among them is the notion of moving left tackle Doug Free to guard.

Many readers here have frequently suggested position switches for players over the years, and usually I disagree.  It is much more difficult to change positions than people realize.  When it comes to Free, however, I think a move to guard might be a good idea.  Free has the skill set to thrive inside, particularly on plays on which he can get to the second level.

The largest qualm most people (including those within the organization, perhaps) will have with moving Free to guard is the $32 million he received in August.  Guards aren’t typically paid that kind of money, especially when they are switching positions.  The problem with that reasoning is that Free’s contract is a sunk cost.  In economic terms, that means it should have no bearing on future decisions.  The Cowboys will pay Free that money regardless of his position, so why not put the best lineup on the field?

Moving Free would of course be contingent on finding a quality right tackle, likely in the draft (assuming current right tackle Tyron Smith moves to the left side).  There will be plenty of options available for Dallas with the 14th overall pick, and an offensive line manned by Smith at left tackle and Free/a first-rounder on the right side looks a whole lot better than the current version.

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11 Responses to Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants, Week 17: Where Should Doug Free Play?

  1. Tom H says:

    I think he should (and will) be moved to RT to make room for Tyron Smith to make the switch to LT this spring.

    RT is more fitting to his ability than OG, closer to his commensurate salary, and most importantly, he’s shown the ability to play very well there.

    I’d like to see the Cowboys use one of their top picks on OG, especially if DeCastro is there at #14. Even though the defense should be the main focus of the upcoming draft. I felt the Cowboys left the OL overhaul unfinished last season. The interior is mediocre at best, and one great guard could finish the job. Then Nagy, Costa, Kowalski and Arkin can compete to fill the other 2 spots inside.

  2. Vince_Grey says:

    Move Free to guard? Interesting idea, but why do that rather than flip the tackles? The only reason I could see would be that Free can’t handle the RT position either, but he has played there before and played reasonably well, while he has no experience at all at guard that I can recall.

    Also, that would leave a hole at tackle. You could draft another one with your number one, but IMO, while the O-line still needs help, it doesn’t need help as much as the pass rush and secondary need help. I would opposed to making another offensive lineman our 1st round pick unless he’s like a top five, sure fire stud who dropped and there are no pass rushers worth that high of a pick available when the Cowboys time arrives. Even then, I’d attempt to trade down a few spots before I’d take another OT in the 1st.

    Of course, you could always take a OT in the 2nd or 3rd round but Dallas hasn’t had a lot of success (To say the least) drafting O-linemen in those rounds lately.

  3. Tim Truemper says:

    Read your artice in the Observer. It spoke to something that I was curious about and which I have seen little to no commentary. In the second half Dallas shifted to a no huddle, shotgun formation attack which seemed to stun the Giants and led to a temporary turnaround in the game. what do you think was going on that they made this shift. I believe you suggested prior to the game that this approach should be a focus for Dalla given the Giants style of defense.

  4. Tom– I agree Free will likely be moved to tackle, but I really think he is a Pro Bowl-type guard who played well at RT despite being in the wrong spot. Like I said, his salary is a sunk cost, so they might as well play him at his best spot now. If the Cowboys select DeCastro at guard, they would be paying him the same money as an OT anyway, so why not select a top-tier OT and upgrade two positions at once?

    Vince–I know Free played okay at RT before, but if you go back to my articles from that time, I always said people thought Free played better than he did because of low expectations. He really played slightly above average and everyone thought he was All-Pro material. Even last year, I had issues with Free, which you can see in my OL grades. Your second point about the pass rush and secondary is the issue I have as well…and there ARE some quality guards in free agency, but just one elite pass-rusher (Mario Williams), who will get locked up.

  5. Tim–I think that was simply the result of being down 21-0 with 30 minutes to play, but it SHOULD have been the philosophy from the start of the game. I thought Garrett would improve more by now at realizing play-calling is about maximizing percentages, not simply running particular plays and blindly claiming “they should work if we execute.” Yes, they SHOULD, but to think they always will is ignorant. You have to give your offense the best chance to execute, and Garrett isn’t doing that by continually running out of tight formations, failing to spread out defenses, etc.

  6. Sandy says:

    LT Smith, LG Holland, Free Agent Center with playoff experience (winning experience with a calming presence in the huddle at the end of games I believe is sorely lacking on this team) RG Kosier and RT Free works for me. Kowalski, Costa, Dockery and Nagy provide cheap albeit mediocre depth, but given all the needs on other side of the ball I think this should be the plan. A stud CB at #14 HAS to be the top priority.

  7. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Jonny,

    Good to see you’re finally a believer (not sure if you care to but I have been stating this about Free for some time). His footwork just isn’t up to par for being a tackle but his turn and pull abilities are above average. Lots of people are clamouring for Free to move to RT – I disagree. He just isn’t a tackle, period. The only issue w/ my suggestion is that Free would easily be one of the highest (if not THE highest) paid OGs in the NFL – it might be difficult for him to live up to the contract.

    I would love to see the Boys draft defense w/ the 1st pick and go after Cordy Glenn or Kelechi Osemele in the 2nd round. Both Glenn and Ose are LTs in college and are 6’5″ 315+ and can play both OT and OG. Drafting one of them leaves the option open for Free or the draftee to be the OT (whoever is better) w/ the other being the OG. If either Smith or the OT gets hurt, then the OG moves over and Arkin fills in for the OG.

  8. Vince_Grey says:

    JB – The big holes I see in your idea are (a) there’s nothing besides pure speculation that Free would be able to play guard at any acceptable level, while he has shown the ability to play RT at an above average level; and (b) Moving Free to guard means either using a high pick on a tackle or signing one as a FA, both being very expensive options. IOW, you would be tying a huge amount of resources to the OL, with no real idea if those resources would result in us having a great line. Meanwhile you’re stuck fixing the defense with lesser round picks and/or bargain FA’s.

    There are high quality OL in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds of the draft every year, Dallas just needs to figure out how to locate the Larry Allen’s (2nd) and Eric Williams (3rd) rather than the Marten’s and Brewsters.

    BTW, don’t forget about center, arguably our weakest OL area last season overall.

    As to defense, do not overlook a stud NT, which would allow Ratliff to move to end. More likely to get that at 14 than a super-elite edge rusher, or even better, a Richard Seymour 3-4 DE. Though, Ware did drop to Dallas at 11, and that wouldn’t be an impossible jump if need be.

  9. valmont says:

    sunk cost isn’t appropriate in a salary cap framework.

    Free / Nagy / Costa / Kosier / Smith

    $8M + $0M + $0M + $1M + $5M = $14M allocated to OL

    Now lets take the example being mentioned most frequently. Reiff falls to Dallas.

    Reiff / Nagy / Costa / Free / Smith

    $5M + $0M + $0M +$8M +$5M = $18M allocated to OL

    since Free’s salary continues to count against the cap you do in fact need to take it into account.

  10. Mont Seventeen says:

    Ppl have to realize when Free played RT there was no film on him, and he was playing opposite of Flo a pllayer that teams knew had problems with speed. Now with Tron playing opposite, there is no doubt Free will still draw the opponents Top pass rusher.

    This is the problem with Jerry, he makes moves and assumes other teams will not adjust… He will move Free to RT and he will have just as many problems there the correct move is OG but Jerry’s pride will not allow that. So chances are they will pass on a qualified OT and draft an OG to please the low hanging fruit fans that only care ab Romo’s stats.

  11. Pingback: Cowboys News and Notes: Tyron Smith to LT, Ratliff at DE? | The DC Times

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