- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 26, 2011

IRVING, TEXAS (AP) - Before the Dallas Cowboys can be big players in free agency, they’ve got to clear room under the salary cap and they got that under way Tuesday by shaking up their offensive line.

Right guard Leonard Davis was told he is going to be released once teams are allowed to do so, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team had not made an announcement. Right tackle Marc Colombo said he was told that he, too, could be gone.

Running back Marion Barber came and went from team headquarters within an hour, and he likely also got a farewell from team owner Jerry Jones. Barber honked twice as he left, but didn’t stop to speak with reporters.

Jones arrived at team headquarters about 40 minutes before the official start of the post-lockout flurry of activity and proclaimed that he would clear enough space under the salary cap to sign anyone he wants. He added that, “Before the day is over, we will have contact with any player we have an interest in.”

Jones said he was personally meeting with the players he planned to release. There’s no point in them reporting to training camp in San Antonio on Wednesday if they’re going to be dumped Friday.

Davis‘ departure was a bit of a surprise, perhaps especially to him. As he left the facility, Davis said only that he’d met with position coach Hudson Houck.

“If something happens, there’s no hard feelings,” Davis said. “I’m totally good. That’s part of the business.”

Part of the money being cleared is to re-sign left tackle Doug Free. A four-year veteran, he went from a restricted free agent to unrestricted under the terms of the lockout.

Dallas also spent its top draft pick on Tyron Smith. He was expected to replace Colombo at right tackle, but could be forced to the left side if Free gets away.

Free was among the first players at team headquarters, perhaps so Jones could tell him he’s the team’s top priority.

Other veterans who could be cut to save money include cornerback Terence Newman and receiver Roy Williams.

Colombo said he expected to find out whether he’s sticking around “in the next day or so.”

“My goal is to play here,” said Colombo, who was among the veterans who helped run offseason practices. “If it doesn’t (happen), it’s been a great six years here with the Dallas Cowboys and I appreciate it.”

Starting Tuesday morning, all NFL teams were allowed to re-sign their own free agents and to sign draft picks and undrafted players. They also were allowed to start negotiating with all veteran free agents, although those deals can’t be signed before Saturday, and they could start making trades.

It’s an entire offseason’s worth of activity condensed into a few weeks, with Tuesday marking the start of the scramble. He said the front office, coaches and scouts were all ready to hit the ground running.

“This is a piece of cake compared to what we dealt with on the labor deal,” Jones said. “This is a labor of love. I get to work on my team.”

As for the labor deal, Jones said he was relieved to finally have it done.

“There was give and take, which is the way the fans would expect it,” he said. “I’m sorry there was so much angst for the fans.”

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