You hate to lose one of the good ones, but that’s exactly what’s happening as the Dallas Cowboys All-Pro center Travis Frederick is retiring from football. It feels like only yesterday the front office was heavily scrutinized for their actions that used a first-round pick on a center. Maybe it was the fact that the team didn’t get back what many believed was fair compensation when they traded back in the draft. Or maybe it was that Frederick was the second-slowest offensive lineman in the draft and most draft pundits believed he shouldn’t have been drafted until the third round.
Spoiler alert: they were wrong.
The Frederick pick turned out to be a genius move by the front office. They selected a guy who took over the starting center position his rookie season, and earned Pro Bowl honors every season thereafter. He started every single game under center, with the sole exception of the 2018 season, a year he sat out after being diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome. He’s a smart guy as he double majored in college in computer engineering and computer science.
He’s a great person, but he’s also a very integral part of this offense. His leadership and recognition of what’s happening pre-snap is going to be sorely missed. A player of his capability is going to be hard to replace.
But the Cowboys will try their very best to do just that. The instant reaction for a lot of fans is to start perusing through the collegiate centers and see what could be available in the draft as they now feel that Dallas has a big need at the position. While keeping a lookout is always valuable, the Frederick news shouldn’t change the course of the Cowboys draft strategy. Collecting great talent should’ve been the plan before, and it should still be the plan. All things considered, the Cowboys are actually in decent shape at center, and we have a few things to thank for that.
The McGovern move
The selection of Penn State Connor McGovern in the third round of last year’s draft caught all of us off guard. The team already had very little precious draft capital after surrendering a first-rounder to get Amari Cooper. And the Trysten Hill pick didn’t exactly woo the crowd. So, when the team spend their final under 100 pick on a player that wasn’t likely to start, it didn’t bring about happy thoughts.
Never was it more evident that the Cowboys were sticking to their “best player” principle than it was when they drafted McGovern. It was pretty simple - he was the highest player by far on their board and they viewed him as a steal. And even though the offensive line was crowded at the time, you don’t want to make a habit of passing on draft steals.
Now, is McGovern really that good? That remains to be seen; a pectoral injury last year didn’t shed any light on what he’s capable of to this point. But a new opportunity is coming, and if this guard-with-center-flex player is as good as advertised, the Cowboys front office pulled off a nice one with that pick.
The center draft class isn’t that plentiful
If your team is in the market for a young new offensive tackle, then boy is this the draft for you. In fact, the Cowboys stand to benefit from the first round being top-loaded in talent as four OT’s could be selected before Dallas us on the clock. That opens the possibility for more useful candidates being available at 17.
While the draft is rich with tackles, the same is not true for interior offensive linemen. There may be a dozen tackles taken in the top 100 of the draft, but that numbers drops to about half for guards. Additionally, only a certain amount of those guards can play the center position. Teams that have a specific need at center might feel like they have to reach a bit since the pick’ns are slim.
Sure, there are players like Cesar Ruiz or Lloyd Cushenberry III, but it wouldn’t make sense to target those guys unless they’re getting great value on the pick. Speaking of great value, the team would be better served in waiting it out to Day 3 and maybe landing a guy like Tyler Biadasz, who just so happen to come from Frederick’s alma mater, Wisconsin.
It’s okay to be a little Looney
We all know that Joe Looney is no Frederick, but he’s as solid of a backup center as you can ask for. He started all 16 games at center in 2018 when Frederick was out, and you didn’t hear many complaints. Looney was one of those smart economical free agent signings back in 2016 when he signed a two-year, $1.6 million deal to help give the Cowboys depth. The team liked him, so they re-upped on another cheap two-year deal in 2018, which turned out to be very wise considering what happened with Frederick that year. He’s been active all 64 games he’s been with the team. And last week, he got his biggest contract yet, a one-year, $2.4 million deal to stick with Dallas.
Looney is more than just a lovable cut-up in the locker room. He’s a solid player, but that’s not to say the starting center job will be his. There are some younger guys who will push for the starter spot, but make no mistake about it - Looney will give these guys a run for their money.
And don’t sleep on Adam Redmond, who just so happens to also have center flexibility. He was often overlooked last year as a guy who would make the team because the Cowboys were so stacked at offensive line, yet he still managed to make the roster.
The loss of Frederick is tough, but the Cowboys are equipped to deal with this as past decisions has put them better shape. If the right guy pops up, then roll with it, but Frederick’s departure should not sway the team to deviate from taking the best players available in this year’s draft.