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Doug Free asked by Dallas Cowboys to take big pay cut

Now that veteran Tyson Clabo is off the market, the Dallas Cowboys have lost a slice of leverage in their standoff with right tackle Doug Free.

The team isn't about to blink, however. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday on "Total Access" that the Cowboys are playing hardball, asking Free to take a "substantial" pay cut of more than $2 million.

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Although a release will count $10 million against the salary cap, the Cowboys can apply half of that total to next year's cap if the transaction comes with a post-June 1 designation.

In short, the Cowboys are drawing out the process, realizing Free has little leverage of his own. The longer the decision looms, the fewer options Free will have on the open market to make up the difference in salary.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys still can turn to veteran free agents Eric Winston or Winston Justice as an alternative to Jermey Parnell. The best-case scenario for both sides is for Free to accept the reduced salary. Just ask James Harrison how his refusal of the Pittsburgh Steelers' pay cut worked out.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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