What is Doug Free’s future with the Cowboys? Don’t ask him

Posted Wednesday, May. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Doug Free might be back. He might not be. He might take a pay cut. He might not.

The right tackle offered little of substance about his future Wednesday at The Ballpark in Arlington during the Cowboys’ charity fundraiser benefiting The Salvation Army.

“Really nothing to talk about right now,” Free said. “There’s a lot going on and stuff, but I’m just happy to be here.”

The Cowboys want to keep Free despite his struggles last season when he had a team-leading 13 penalties, including five holds, and allowed seven sacks. He played better late in the season when he played in a rotation with Jermey Parnell.

The Cowboys have asked Free to take a pay cut from the $7 million salary he is scheduled to make. He currently is slated to count $10 million against the salary cap.

Veteran right tackle Eric Winston remains a free agent. The Cowboys could sign Winston to compete with Parnell for the starting job if Free refuses the pay cut, and they decide to designate him a post-June 1 salary cap casualty.

“You never know what might happen,” Free said when asked if he anticipated being with the Cowboys next season.

Romo’s role

The Cowboys still haven’t announced who will call the plays this season. Coach Jason Garrett also doesn’t seem eager to acknowledge quarterback Tony Romo’s increased involvement in the offense, including game-planning.

“I think Tony Romo is a great leader for our football team,” Garrett said Wednesday. “He’s been a guy who’s always been very committed to what we’re doing, and it’s something that we have always wanted as coaches. You want your quarterback to be involved. We’ve always felt like he’s done that, and he’ll continue to do that going forward.”

The Cowboys committed their future to Romo with a six-year, $108 million extension this off-season. With that apparently comes more responsibility as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said during the draft that he expected Romo to put in “Peyton Manning-type time” at Valley Ranch.

Hatcher wins

Jason Hatcher won the team’s home run derby, beating receiver Dez Bryant in the final. Hatcher hit four into the stands at The Ballpark at Arlington, with his home runs, including those over a shortened fence halfway in the outfield, worth $19,000. The Reliant-sponsored event raised $43,000 for The Salvation Army.

Hatcher, who will move from defensive end to defensive tackle in the team’s new 4-3 scheme, might not be back to defend his title next off-season. He is in the final year of his contract, scheduled to make $2 million in base salary. He has seen teammates in his position, including friend Chris Canty and Stephen Bowen, leave in free agency for greater riches and knows that could be his future, too.

“I’m sure I want to be back, but you can’t make guys want you,” Hatcher said. “You’ve got to go out there and perform. Sometimes it’s a numbers thing. Sometimes it’s a money thing. Hopefully, I’ll be back. I love the state I’m in. I love the organization. I love my teammates. So I’m going to go out here and play my butt off. That’s what they’re paying me to do. They’re paying me this year to play my butt off, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to worry about a contract at all. I’m looking forward to the 2013 season.”

Lee still sore

Sean Lee says he still feels some soreness in his toe after he works out, and that it could be that way until the start of training camp.

“You’re going to feel that soreness, all the way probably until right before camp,” he said Wednesday . “It’s progressing really well. If I needed to play tomorrow, I could.”

The Cowboys linebacker missed the last 10 games last season because of a dislocated toe suffered in a game at Carolina.

He said he is doing everything he can to make sure he stays healthy. He came to the Cowboys with a knee injury, but he played in 14 games as a rookie and 15 games his second year. He missed a game in 2011 because of a dislocated wrist, but came back with it heavily wrapped in time for the next game.

“Ever since college, I’ve really changed across the board how I’ve trained, how I’ve tried to recover — stretching, eating, every habit that can help me stay on the field, I’ve tried to do since college,” Lee said. “Last year, the type of injury it was, I thought it was a fluke. You really can’t avoid that. But I’m still at this stage, trying to avoid injuries. And I’ve got to find a way to stay on the field. If I want to be an effective player, I’ve got to stay on the field.”

Carter feels natural in 4-3

Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter said everything is back to normal with his arm, and he is eager to get started in a new defense that feels natural to him.

“It just puts us in position, guys like me, Sean, the rest of the linebackers, just to go out there and make plays, just fly around,” he said . “That’s what I did in college. That’s what got me to this point. I feel natural there. I feel comfortable. I’m just going to go out and play ball.”

Carter missed the last five games last year because of a dislocated elbow suffered in the Thanksgiving game.

He said his arm is fine now.

“My arm’s great. Everything’s back to normal,” he said. “I’m back bench-pressing. I’m just ready to go.”

Murray hails RBs

DeMarco Murray said he understands the Cowboys might want to use two running backs, but he’s used to that. He said he’s never been a “true starter,” either with the Cowboys or in college at Oklahoma.

“I’ve started, but Felix was always here, and things like that, so I’m excited for the new kid,” Murray said .

The new kid is Joseph Randle, a running back from Oklahoma State drafted by the Cowboys in the fifth round two weeks ago.

“He’s definitely a quality running back from Oklahoma State — they’ve always been known for great running backs,” Murray said. “I’m excited to bring him in the family. Definitely, we’re going to get after it a little bit and help him out as much as we can.”

But Murray didn’t forget about two other running backs still on the roster.

“I’m excited for Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner, two great running backs,” he said. “Those guys have definitely worked hard and earned themselves a shot at playing time next year.”

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