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Report: Cowboys ask Doug Free to restructure contract

By Matt Rybaltowski | CBSSports.com

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The Cowboys have reportedly asked Doug Free to take a pay cut. (USATSI)

Borrowing a page from their archrivals the New York Giants, a cap-strapped team that recently restructured the contract of veteran offensive lineman David Diehl, the Cowboys have reportedly asked starting right tackle Doug Free to take a similar pay cut.

The added cap space the Cowboys will receive from a restructured deal could allow the team to pursue veteran offensive tackle Eric Winston, NFL.com reported. Although the Cowboys saved roughly $5.0 million for the 2013 season with Tony Romo's new deal, the team is only $5.57 million under the salary cap, according to Spotrac.com. The Giants saved almost $3.5 million when Diehl agreed to a deal that reduced his base salary from $4.475 million to $1.0 million for 2013.

Few players in the league have a long-term contract as back-loaded as the four-year, $32 million one Free signed in 2011. Free's base salary goes from $1.2 million in 2012 to $7.0 million in 2013. His cap hit increases from $4.2 to $10.02 million. If Free is released before June 1, he will cost the Cowboys $10.02 million in dead money for 2013. If Free is waived after the date, the Cowboys could split the cap hit between the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Free received the lucrative, long-term deal following a stellar season in 2010. With dominant run blocking that year, Free ranked first among all tackles in the category according to Pro Football Focus. He also allowed only five sacks in his first season as a full-time starter. Over the last two seasons, Free has surrendered 16 sacks -- including 10 in 2011.

Dallas also had trouble running behind the former Northern Illinois tackle last season. The Cowboys ranked 31st in the NFL on runs behind the right tackle and 27th on runs toward the right sideline, according to NFLGSIS.com.

The Cowboys have been forced to deal with a precarious salary cap situation throughout the offseason. Last March, the NFL docked Dallas $10 million in cap space for front-loading several contracts in 2010 when the league did not have a salary cap in the final season before the Lockout. The NFL ruled that the Cowboys could split the amount between the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

Keep your eye on everything NFL by following Matt Rybaltowski on Twitter @mattrybaltowski.

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