This doesn’t come as a complete surprise, considering that Mike Fisher previously reported that Free was considering retirement.
Cowboys executive Stephen Jones mentioned a few weeks ago that they expected to have Free back as their starting right for the 2017 season.
“Our projection is Doug is going to come back, and he’s our starting right tackle,” Jones said, via Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Although, Jones did say that they’ve considered the possibility playing La’el Collins at right tackle.
“We’ve visited about [Collins playing right tackle],” Jones said. “Obviously right now, we feel good about Doug coming back and being able to do that. But if Doug were to retire or not be around or if something happened to him, than yeah, we’ve visited about who would have the best chance to go outside of our inside guys.
“I think [Collins] would certainly be an option.”
Some have said the Cowboys would prefer to keep Collins at guard, but that would mean going with Chaz Green at right tackle or looking to bring someone in either free agency or the draft.
Free, 33, is a former fourth-round pick of the Cowboys back in 2007. He was in the final year of his three-year, $15 million contract that includes $6 million guaranteed and was set to make a base salary of $5 million for the 2017 season.
In 2016, Free has appeared in all 16 games for the Cowboys and was rated by Pro Football Focus as the No. 40 offensive tackle out of 78 qualifying players.