Position: Left Tackle
Size: 6'6, 320
Age: 27, 1/6/84
College: Northern Illinois
Drafted: Round 4, #122 - 2007
Experience: 4 seasons
Salary History and Contract Status: 2007: $710,000 2008: $805,000 2009: $573,530 2010: $467,280 - Free is a restricted free agent in 2011 (pending the new CBA).
Pre-2010: Free emerged from the pack of unknown reserves in 2009 by helping the Cowboys replace the injured Marc Colombo who broke his leg in Green Bay in November. Free went on to play Right Tackle with great confidence, allowing 2 sacks in 7+ games. Colombo returned for the 2 playoff games at Right Tackle, but then in the first half of the Vikings playoff game, Free replaced Flozell Adams at Left Tackle. Rather than pay Adams $7.5 million to return, they released him and gave the LT job to Free on April 2.
2010: Free allowed 5 sacks in his first season at Left Tackle - a year that had him facing most of the elite pass rushers in football. He was given a lot of help early in the season, but as the calendar turned to October, it appeared that the Cowboys gave him less and less help (partly because they realized if one of their tackles needed help, it was Colombo). To be able to leave your LT to play on his own much of the time without any obvious moments of this season where he was to blame for a horrendous moment is quite remarkable. The Cowboys must be tickled. Only 6 full time Left Tackles in all of the NFL gave up less than 5 sacks. Meanwhile, according to the game graders at Profootballfocus.com , Free is the best run blocking Tackle in the entire league. I knew he was good, but I did not realize that a case could be made that he is already the best in his first year on the job. Overall, they rank him as the 3rd best LT in the league, behind Andre Whitworth and Jake Long. Nobody on the roster played more than Free (tied with Andre Gurode) with 1105 snaps. He did lead the team in penalties, with 11, so there is a thing or two to clean up, but overall, the Cowboys have to be delighted with his first year at Left Tackle.
2011 Analysis: With many holes on this team, it is reassuring to know that Free is on the upswing and should only get better. Left tackles can be very difficult to find. If we hear of a large extension soon, it should come as no surprise. One thing about 3 seasons on the sidelines means that when he finally proves himself on the field, he is also very close to free agency. His timing is excellent in this regard, and chances are he will not be a bargain for much longer. But, you don't mind paying for quality, and Doug Free has proven in 23 NFL starts that he can do the job.