INDIANAPOLIS -- While nobody knows what free agency system will be in place in the future without an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, the Cowboys will go about protecting themselves by placing tenders on several players in the next few days.
Left tackle Doug Free, defensive end Stephen Bowen, defensive end Jason Hatcher and wide receiver Sam Hurd would be restricted free agents if the 2010 season remains in place, however, they could be unrestricted free agents under the previous system.
The Cowboys gave Hurd and Bowen second-round tenders last year worth $1.759 million. Along with Hatcher, they could get the second-round tenders this year. Alan Ball is likely to receive a right-of-first-refusal tender. Free could get the highest tender, which would cost a team a first- and third-round pick, which is what Miles Austin received last year, or just a first-round tender.
The Cowboys will take a little bit of a gamble on not placing the franchise or transition tag on Free. The franchise tag would have cost $10.1 million, but by not going that route the Cowboys run the risk of losing Free should he be an unrestricted free agent under a new CBA.
Ball will be a restricted free agent regardless of the system and will be tendered a deal as well. Cornerback Bryan McCann and wide receiver Jesse Holley are exclusive rights free agents. The Cowboys will not tender a deal to linebacker Leon Williams and quarterback Chris Greisen.