Free-Falling? Dallas’ three approaches to a Doug Free replacement

As murmurs arose midweek that long-tenured Dallas Cowboys tackle Doug Free was pondering retirement, a middling roster concern was brought to the bubble: Who will replace Free when he vacates the right edge of the Great Wall of Dallas II?

With the offseason in full swing, there’s no better time to explore the three avenues that the Cowboys can take regarding acquiring a future right tackle.

A) Promote Chaz Green from within: Usually you’d think elevating a swing tackle who had put down positive tape during stand-in duty for Tyron Smith would be the path of least risk. But Green’s many ailments, the last of which ended his 2016 season and required disc surgery, have made him seem less than dependable. Add that to the red-shirting hip surgery in his rookie campaign and we’ve painted the same picture his college career portrayed, which is a talented tackle who simply could not stay on the field. So why look to Green as the on-roster replacement of choice? The former Florida Gator presents the only option that doesn’t require a player changing positions, whilst also maintaining an on-field level of competence. As we know Zack Martin is an All-Pro at right guard and La’el Collins has done his work to Travis Frederick’s left. The latter may have the unproven ability to play right tackle, but moving either would mean 40% of the line had been changed from a year ago, and further free agent funds would need to be sunk on a starting guard in Ron Leary’s absence.

B) Give Vollmer a Holler: Such is the depleted veteran stock of available tackles, checking in with the retirement-pondering German should be an early point of call if the Jones’ go to market. Having done his best work on the right side, Vollmer is reportedly measuring lingering hip pain from the injury that wiped out his 2016, where he was released by New England with a failed medical designation. If now healthy, the 6’8″ 32-year old could opt to finish his career along the league’s most vaunted offensive line on a rising NFC contender. Why Vollmer over the likes of Riley Rieff and Ricky Wagner? Simply, money talks. The Cowboys have shown us their approach to free agency, and it isn’t big money bidding wars. Both are likely to get overpaid in a talent-poor class, while Andrew Whitworth is largely tipped to remain in Cincinnati. Coming off a year where he carried just a $5.2M cap number, Vollmer presents an affordable, capable (if risky) option.

C) A Taylor-made Pick: As much as the free agent pool of tackles is lacking in punch, so is this draft class. But one name that has continued to impress through the draft process (Day 1 Combine review) is Taylor Moton. While many project the Western Michigan product as a guard in the NFL, his Senior Bowl week suggested he could very well play on the right edge at the next level. With the explosion, power, mobility and length teams covet, the 6’5″ 319-pounder’s footwork stands out on tape as a glaring coaching point going forward. But with serious upside, a team as successful identifying and honing OL talent as Dallas could very well prize the dependable (52 college starts), position-flexible Moton, and bank on their staff to fine-tune the technique flaws that his film shows. Moton could be the plucked tag in the second round should Doug Free make a pre-Draft announcement.

Whether Free chooses to retire or not, his career is obviously near the end of the road and Dallas must find depth this offseason. Swing tackle in Dallas is up for grabs, my friends.

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