By Matthew Postins
Within hours after announcing the signing of defensive end Anthony Hargrove, the Dallas Cowboys revealed they had reached an agreement with offensive tackle Doug Free on a restructured contract in which Free accepted pay cuts for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
The Cowboys went to Free more than a month ago asking the starting right tackle to take a pay cut. Free was relatively silent on the issue. The prevailing wisdom was that Free wouldn’t accept the pay cut and the Cowboys would be forced to make a decision as to whether to make Free a June 1 roster cut or keep him for 2013 and live with his large cap figure.
Free’s new base salary for 2013 will be $3.5 million, down from $7 million in his original contract. It also reduces his 2013 cap figure from $10 million to approximately $6.5 million. Free’s 2013 base salary is also guaranteed, even if he’s released.
In 2014 Free’s base salary was reduced from $8 million to $3.5 million, a savings of approximately $4.5 million. The base salary is guaranteed, but only if Free is still on the Cowboys roster five days after the 2014 league year begins, which is in March.
The Cowboys save $8 million in cap space the next two years in the deal. If the Cowboys had designated Free as a June 1 roster cut, they would have saved $10 million over the next two years.
The restructured deal likely ends any pursuit of a veteran offensive tackle. Free will now complete with Jermey Parnell for the starting right tackle position. Free committed 13 penalties last season, more than any other NFL player, according to The Football Database. He and Parnell shared time at right tackle during the season’s final month.
Hargrove’s signing preceded the news of Free’s new deal. Hargrove, a journeyman defensive end, signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys. At 6-foot-3, 270 pounds, he could be a backup at either defensive end position. He has also played inside at tackle.
Hargrove’s history is checkered. He has 19.5 career sacks. But he’s played for six different teams, twice earned suspensions for substance abuse and was sucked into the Saints’ “Bountygate” scandal, resulting in an eight-game suspension that was eventually overturned. He hasn’t played a game since 2011 and hasn’t started a game since 2009.
But by stepping foot on the Valley Ranch campus, he already has more experience in a NFL 4-3 defense than any other Cowboys backup. He also played in the Cover 2 system in St. Louis.
To accommodate the Hargrove signing, the Cowboys released offensive lineman D.J. Hall, whom they had signed last week after rookie camp. The Cowboys also released Texas A&M cornerback Dustin Harris to sign Langston cornerback Malik James, who tried out with the team on Friday.