Doug Free gets highest tender offer

Updated: March 1, 2011, 5:42 PM ET
By Todd Archer | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday placed the highest tender on left tackle Doug Free, an offer that would pay him roughly $3.5 million in 2011.

As a result, if another team signs Free as a restricted free agent, it would have to give the Cowboys its first- and third-round draft picks as compensation.

The Cowboys placed the same tender on wide receiver Miles Austin before reaching an agreement on a six-year, $54 million contract extension last September. Austin's tender offer was worth $3.168 million last year.

Depending on the free agency system in place once the NFL and NFL Players Association reach an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, the tender offer could be moot. If the old system returns in which a player earns unrestricted free agency after four seasons, then Free would be free to sign with another team and the Cowboys would not receive any compensation.

The Cowboys chose not to give Free, who played well in his first year at left tackle, the franchise tag, which would have guaranteed him $10.1 million. The team's hope is to reach a long-term agreement with Free, but the unsettled labor future complicates matters.

The Cowboys put second-round tenders on defensive ends Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher for the second straight year, seeing an increase to $1.934 million. Like Free, they could wind up as unrestricted free agents depending on the CBA. Safety Alan Ball will receive the original round tender (roughly $1.4 million), which means a team would have to give up a seventh-round pick in return.

Wide receiver Sam Hurd, linebacker Leon Williams and quarterback Chris Griesen will not be tendered, making them free to sign elsewhere once a new labor agreement is reached.

With the money committed to the other receivers Austin, Dez Bryant and Roy Williams, it is difficult to justify a tender offer to Hurd. If Williams is moved, then Hurd could be in position to return. He has said he wants an opportunity to be a regular in a wide receiver rotation. Hurd had 14 catches and was second on the team with 21 special teams tackles.

Todd Archers covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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