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Cowboys cited among teams losing the most free agent talent, but there’s a twist

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It’s not free agency that has hurt the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys v Indianapolis Colts *Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In the early stages of free agency, there were some tense moments for fans of the Dallas Cowboys. Everyone kind of knew that star corner Byron Jones would be leaving, and when he did to the Dolphins, it was just a confirmation of what we knew was going to happen. But then Robert Quinn left for the Bears and Randall Cobb went to the Texans. Suddenly, some real talent was exiting the Cowboys. Another couple of starters, Maliek Collins and Jeff Heath, also left the Star for greener pastures in Las Vegas. That’s five starters (including Cobb in the slot as a starter) that had left the Cowboys, four on defense.

The Cowboys mitigated this somewhat by keeping Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, by signing a lot of their own free agents for depth purposes, and going out and getting guys like Gerald McCoy, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Dontari Poe and Greg Zeurlein.

So while not exactly a wash, it didn’t seem like the Cowboys were doing too badly when comparing lost talent to talent signed. So how do they end up on a list of teams losing the most talent in free agency? Well, the Jones/Quinn/Cobb exodus certainly sets the stage, but Bleacher Report is throwing in one big loss that is not related to free agency.

Truthfully, the Dallas Cowboys might not have made this list if not for [Travis] Frederick’s sudden retirement.

Don’t get us wrong; they were definitely running a free-agent deficit before that happened. Jones is one of the best cover men in the league and Cobb is an experienced slot receiver, and neither was replaced. But even if they arguably upgraded over Collins and Heath, the Frederick loss is devastating.

Frederick has been a 16-start Pro Bowler in every season since 2014, excluding the 2018 campaign he missed due to Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Without him that year, the Dallas offense ranked 24th in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders, compared to 10th in 2017 and second in 2019. They might not struggle as much with a healthy Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith and Zack Martin in 2020, but they’ve still lost considerable talent on both sides of the ball.

The Frederick thing is definitely a loss, but throwing it in as a free agent-thing is a little disingenuous. Still, the effect is the same if he retired or was signed elsewhere; Frederick will not be manning the middle of the offensive line in 2020. As much as we like to think Joe Looney did an okay job replacing Frederick, the stats show a considerable dropoff for the offense.

Maybe Connor McGovern can come in and surprise us all as the center of the future. Or the Cowboys can hit on a player in the draft who will replace Frederick. We know that the Cowboys are interested in bringing in more competition for the position. We’ll just have to see how it all works out.