Could Doug Free return in 2013?

INDIANAPOLIS -- It has seemed like a fait accompli this offseason that Doug Free would be among the players purged for salary-cap reasons by the Cowboys.

Free is scheduled to count $10.02 million against the cap, but if he is designated as a June 1 cut then the Cowboys would free up $7 million in space, which could account for the team’s money to sign the rookies.

“I wouldn’t rule Doug out,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

Jones, however, would not discuss the possibility of the team asking Free to take a pay cut.

“That’s speculative,” he said.

Free, who has started 48 straight games, struggled in 2013, moving to right tackle with Tyron Smith moving left side. He led the Cowboys with 15 penalties (seven holds, eight false starts) and later in the season he split time with Jermey Parnell. Free’s play improved under the rotation.

Jones said he expects the offensive line to improve in part because of the second year learning from Bill Callahan, who took over from Hudson Houck in 2012, improved health from guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau and a more stable center position.

“I’m not naïve either. I know not everybody’s going to be healthy because guys get hurt,” Jones said, “but last year I do think it was inordinate.”