Cowboys 1st & 10: NFL Draft & Free Agency Top 10 Stories of The Week
In this edition of First and 10, I look back on Travis Frederick’s career in Dallas and examine how the signing of Dontari Poe impacts how we look at the Cowboys’ defense - and the NFL Draft ...
1) WHERE’S THE BEEF? IT’S COMING AND GOING
Remember when we thought the Dallas Cowboys reached to take Travis Frederick in the first round?
Yeah, those were the days.
The day after I filed last week’s First and 10 Frederick announced to everyone that he was retiring from the Cowboys. It was a surprise to say the least.
Frederick leaves the Cowboys after a seven-year career with a tremendous resume. He was selected to five Pro Bowls, earned one First Team All-Pro nod and two more Second Team nods, along with selection to the Professional Football Writers Association’s All-Rookie Team in 2013. This came after Frederick was an All-American at Wisconsin.
Taking a pure center is a risk in the first round. Most teams try to slide by with either taking a guard/center combo or by taking a center later on in the draft. And the Cowboys took their share of criticism when they traded back and took Frederick at No. 31 overall. Remember, this was the draft where the Cowboys seemingly passed on defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, only to find out later the Cowboys had arranged their draft board for a 3-4 defense instead of the 4-3 defense they were transitioning to? Yeah, those were the days.
Frederick probably isn’t heading for the Hall of Fame. He may not even find himself in the Cowboys Ring of Honor. But he was, undoubtedly, the most important part of the Cowboys’ offensive line, even if guard Zack Martin and tackle Tyron Smith loom larger nationally. Frederick read every defense, made every line call and helped quarterbacks Tony Romo and Dak Prescott check out of tricky situations on a regular basis. He was a consistent above-average run blocker with a rare ability to pull out of the center position and into sweep running plays. He was one of the best pass protectors in the business. When Frederick missed the 2018 season with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an auto-immune disorder, he was sorely missed.
Frederick returned last season and regained his form, earning yet another Pro Bowl nod and becoming the team’s nominee for the 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
In his announcement Frederick said that the illness forced him to reassess his priorities, including how football fit into being a husband and father. When Frederick was on the field he rarely missed a game. He was as durable as they came. He became the game’s highest-paid center in 2016, and based on his quality of play that $56.4 million was justified. Frederick also immersed himself in the community with a charity designed to help the hungry with the Blocking out Hunger Foundation. You won’t find many better people in the NFL than Frederick.
The Cowboys will miss him in 2020. As for who takes his place, well the Cowboys, fortunately already have a potential replacement in Joe Looney, the guard who swung into Frederick’s place in 2018 and performed well. Our Mike Fisher also made the point that the Cowboys may have a second option, one that didn’t even darken the field in 2019 but has that guard/center versatility that a lot of teams, including the Cowboys, value. There is also the NFL Draft, and there are good options there. But few, if any, have the ability to start right away in the NFL, much less at the level Frederick did in 2013.
So while Frederick, all 315 pounds of him, left The Star, more beef came in when the Cowboys agreed to a deal with 346-pound defensive tackle Dontari Poe. With the signing of Gerald McCoy — who tips the scales at 300 pounds — the Cowboys added about 650 pounds to their defensive line, according to Mike Fisher. And, yes, Poe can catch passes too. But that’s not why he’s in Dallas.
One of the questions about this defense for 2020 is, well, exactly where is it going? Will it be a 4-3? Will it be a 3-4? Will be a hybrid of the two? Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said he’s interested in having the ‘Best 11’ players on the field. Right now, McCoy and Poe both feel like two of the best 11. Both played in 3-4 systems last year, but McCoy has played in a 4-3 system before in Tampa Bay. So one could take this as proof that the Cowboys are moving to a 3-4. But you could also take this as proof that the Cowboys continue to pursue versatility on their defensive line. I lean more toward us seeing multiple fronts this season — 4-3 and 3-4. Because, in run situations, why would you not want both McCoy and Poe on the field at the same time, clogging the middle? Since McCoy has the ability to rush the passer from inside, he becomes a more natural inside tackle to keep on the field on passing downs. McCoy has 59.5 career sacks. Poe has 21 sacks for his career, so he can get there, too. Just not as consistently.
I think signing both enables Nolan to adhere to that ‘Best 11’ mantra this season and gives the Cowboys a bit of flexibility to explore if a particular scheme makes sense long-term. Remember — moving to a 3-4 impacts the linebackers, too. Does a system like that serve Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee and that group best? One must think about that, too.
But the Cowboys’ defensive line — and defensive line rotation — certainly got better in free agency.
2) MY EIGHTH COWBOYS SI 7-ROUND MOCK DRAFT
Earlier this week I published my EIGHTH Cowboys SI 7-Round Mock Draft. I did this mock Thursday and created a pool of five players for each round and attempted to put together the best possible Cowboys draft based on those pools of players. And there were plenty of great options to choose from.
Check out the results of this mock draft here. And, next week, check out Mock No. 9.
And, don’t forget, links to my previous 7-round mocks are below:
In other Mock Draft news, Mike Fisher wrote a piece profiling the players that a recent Sports Illustrated Mock Draft had the Cowboys taking in the first three rounds. Here’s the link (hint — SI’s first-round pick is different than mine, though their pick is in my player pool).
3) COWBOYS FREE AGENCY IN ONE LINK
If you’ve followed CowboysSI.com all week, you know our Mike Fisher and the rest of the staff have been all over Cowboys free agency this week. From transaction stories to contract details to what comes next, there is no better source for Cowboys news.
The best part is you only need one link to experience this. Every transaction, every story, every bit of analysis from our entire CowboysSI team is on our Free Agency Tracker. This includes player-by-player breakdowns of each coming and going.
Click here for the Free Agency Tracker. We’ll keep updating it for the foreseeable future.
And, it’s clear the Cowboys are making moves to prepare for the 2020 season. But … what if there’s … no season? Bri Amaranthus explores that prospect in this piece.
4) A COMPETITION WITH A KICKER
Earlier this week the Cowboys made a splash in free agency by signing kicker Greg Zuerlein, a.k.a. ‘Greg the Leg’ who used to kick for the Los Angeles Rams. New Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel coached Zuerlein in Los Angeles and the Cowboys have some faith in Zuerlein, handing him a three-year deal worth $7.5 million.
But here’s the problem. The Cowboys also have Kai Forbath on the roster. So, for the first time in a long time, we have a bona fide kicking competition as we ramp up for training camp. The fact that it’s between two quality veterans is going to be a lot of fun. My money’s on Greg the Leg, personally.
5) 4,300 COWBOYS FANS (AND COUNTING) KNOW WERE TO GET GREAT VIDEO
Don’t forget to subscribe to the CowboysSI.com YouTube channel. With great content from our Mike Fisher, Bri Amaranthus and the rest of the CowboySI staff, it’s a one-stop shop to get instant video comment on what’s going on with the Dallas Cowboys, along with great video features, breaking news and interviews.
6) CELEBRATING THE COWBOYS’ 60TH
The Dallas Cowboys are celebrating their 60th season in the NFL in 2020 and Richie Whitt is counting down the 60 biggest moments in franchise history. Here’s the link to the full list.
7) WHITT’S END ON … TEAGUE VS. T.O.? WHAT, AGAIN?
In Whitt’s End this week, Richie Whitt explores a rivalry whose birth I was witness to — George Teague vs. Terrell Owens. You remember the game, right? Owens catches a touchdown pass, runs to the Star in the middle of Texas Stadium and Teague tracks him down with a hit? I watched it from the auxiliary press box at Texas Stadium. And, yep, it’s still a thing.
Get more of Whitt’s End right here. Whitt’s End appears every Friday at CowboyMaven, part of the SI network.
8) SEAN LEE, THE HOT BOYZ HELPING IN THE COVID-19 FIGHT
As the NFL continues to shut down in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus, a couple of Cowboys stepped up this week to help those that are helping others during this pandemic.
First, newly-signed linebacker Sean Lee and his wife, Megan, donated $150,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County. The focus, as first noted by DallasCowboys.com, is to help the Boys & Girls Clubs provide meals to kids and families during the Coronavirus crisis. The donation will help the two organizations provide 50,000 meals over the next six weeks.
Earlier in the week the Hot Boyz, led by Demarcus Lawrence, hit the streets of DFW over the weekend arranging to serve meals to people in need. And the Hot Boyz web site has ways that you can help those affected by the coronavirus right now. So click the link and take a look at how you can help.
Outside of the Cowboys, Saints head coach Sean Payton was cleared of the virus. So good news for him and Saints fans.
9) COWBOYS BLITZCAST, BEST COAST COWBOYS REACTS TO FREE AGENCY
How are the Dallas Cowboys conducting NFL business in what is now a “stay at home” environment? And what do we make of Travis Frederick’s motivation for his own “stay at home” decision?
Welcome to the ‘The Blitzcast – A Dallas Cowboys Podcast’ by Drunk Sports in partnership with CowboysSI.com. “BigRed” Lance Dorsett and Timm “IndyCarTim” Hamm are your hosts as we discuss all things Dallas Cowboys and all things NFL. Click here to listen to the podcast.
The boys had our Mike Fisher on to talk about the retirement of Travis Frederick, new free-agency acquisitions and the idea of Tom Brady headed to Tampa Bay.
“Secret” issues with Free Agency roster additions? Yup. “Sneaky” needs still as the NFL Draft approaches? Yup.
It’s the latest episode of the “Best Coast Boys” podcast with hosts Landon McCool and the Dallas Morning News’ John Owning ... as they analyze all of the offseason news and notes surrounding the Dallas Cowboys and NFL as a whole.
After the pleasantries, the guys dive into the latest news surrounding the Cowboys, including some of their most recent signings. The guys then give their overarching views on the Cowboys offseason thus far, while Landon makes sure to mention that it’s not finished yet, as a lot can still be done.
10) TWEET OF THE WEEK
Wanna talk Cowboys? Hit up Postins on Twitter at @PostinsPostcard or Mike Fisher on Twitter @FishSports