For two years running, Doug Free has been one of the worst starting offensive tackles in the NFL. But the Dallas Cowboys don't have a ton of options at right tackle and Free's cap hit is slated to exceed $10 million in each of the next three seasons.
Free might still be released on June 1, which would give Dallas the ability to spread out the guaranteed money left on the four-year, $32 million contract he signed after the 2010 season. But the Cowboys are in a tough spot no matter what happens and how you break it down.
Naturally, frustrated fans want to point the finger at somebody, and ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon thinks that Free is fully responsible for this mess.
The Cowboys deserve criticism for a lot of overly generous contracts they've given out in recent years, but Free's deal doesn't fall in that category.
No reasonable mind questioned the wisdom of locking Free up after the lockout ended in 2011. They really didn't have much choice. He was a 27-year-old free agent coming off a terrific year in his first season as the starting left tackle. If the Cowboys didn't give him legitimate left tackle money, the Philadelphia Eagles or Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have.
Yes, Free is the guy who has failed to live up to expectations here, but the Cowboys didn't have to hand him a contract worth $17 million in guaranteed money based on a year-and-a-half's worth of quality performances.
You have every right to be disappointed in the disappointment that is Free, but NFL front offices are judged in part on their ability see the future. Jerry Jones and Co. rolled the dice here and landed snake eyes. That has to count for something.
There's certainly enough hate to go around. This isn't all on Free because the former fourth-round pick's stock was probably artificially inflated by a somewhat fluky 23-game run in 2009 at right tackle and 2010 at left tackle. Can't blame the guy for taking the cash. But it's not all on Dallas, because chances have to be taken in the billion-dollar card game that is the NFL.
The good news is you have two index fingers.