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La'el Collins only an emergency option at tackle right now

INDIANAPOLIS -- When word of Doug Free potentially considering retirement surfaced on Wednesday, two people close to the veteran right tackle were surprised and later the Dallas Cowboys were perplexed.

"I do not know of any talk of retirement in regards to Doug Free," coach Jason Garrett said. "We had a good visit after the season. He, like all the players, they wanted to get away for a little while then get themselves recharged and come back to work. I don't anticipate anything other than that."

Free, the Cowboys' starting right tackle since 2012, is signed through 2017 and is entering his 11th season. He has dealt with lower leg injuries the last few seasons but has missed just five games since becoming a full-time starter in 2010. All of them came in 2014.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones was asked Tuesday about the possibility of La'el Collins playing tackle, a question many fans have posed over the last few months.

"We've visited about that," Jones said. "Obviously right now we feel good about Doug coming back and being able to do that. But if Doug were to retire or not be around or if something happened to him, than yeah, we've visited about who would have the best chance to go outside of our inside guys. I think [Collins] would certainly be an option."

After signing Collins to a fully guaranteed deal as an undrafted free agent in 2015 the Cowboys tried him briefly at tackle, where he played at LSU, but figured guard would be his best position.

The Cowboys' approach with Free apparently returning would be to use Collins at tackle only as an emergency.

"Our projection is Doug is going to come back and he's our starting right tackle," Jones said. "Obviously if we don't get [Ronald] Leary re-signed, which will be difficult, then we see La'el as our starting guard."