On February 11th, teams were given two weeks to place franchise tags on players. Michael Vick (Eagles), David Harris (Jets), Peyton Manning (Colts) and Haloti Ngata (Ravens) have been franchised in the hopes of signing long extensions and many people feel that the Cowboys should do the same with Doug Free.
While Free had a good season and no one wants to see him go, it's not that cut and dry when it comes to the Cowboys' plans.
Free had a great year in his first as a starter for the Cowboys. He was without a doubt the Cowboys best offensive lineman on the team and allowed just five sacks during the season, three less than Flozell Adams did in his last season with the Cowboys. He also didn't allow any quarterback hits the last eight weeks of the season.
The biggest problem is determining whether under a new collective bargaining agreement Free would be classified as a restricted or unrestricted free agent. If he's restricted, the Cowboys would be able to put a first and third round tender on him (like they did with Miles Austin last season), and that would essentially keep Free in a Cowboys uniform for less than it would cost to franchise him.
As an un-franchised, unrestricted free agent, Free's price would go up considerably and the Cowboys would get nothing if they lost him. To avoid this, the Cowboys would have to franchise him and that brings us to the next issue.
With no CBA (and no signs of there being one anytime soon) there's no indication on how much the franchise tag will cost. Last season, franchised tackles received $10.7 million. That amount is most likely to increase, but it's unclear how much it will increase.
Even if the Cowboys franchise Free, there are still options. With the talent at left tackle in the draft, the Cowboys could franchise Free, cut Marc Colombo (who had an awful season) and move Free back to the right side, or draft a lower ranked tackle, cut Colombo and move the draft pick to the right side.
One thing is for sure: CBA or not, the Cowboys do want Doug Free and all indications show that Free wants to be in Dallas. Therefore, no matter what happens it's likely that Free will be with the Cowboys whenever football starts up again.
Since Jerry Jones is at the forefront of the CBA negotiations, he will have some indication soon on what the franchise price will be for tackles and once that happens, the Cowboys should move quickly. However, they only have nine days left to figure this out, so they can't be too patient.