Thu, 06 Aug 2020

O-Line: Steal At The End Of The Fourth Round

Dallas Cowboys
03 Jul 2020, 20:24 GMT+10

With the NFL Draft completed and free agency at least slowing down here as the summer approaches, it's time to take a closer look at every position.

Each day, we will dissect a different aspect about the position, ranging from position battles, to under-the-radar players, to simply answering questions that have yet to be resolved.

This week, we continue the series with the offensive line:

Steal At The End Of The Fourth Round?

Ready to Compete

The Cowboys didn't want to risk losing out on Tyler Biadasz in the fifth round.

That's why they traded their fifth-round pick, and next year's, to move back into the fourth and take the Wisconsin center back in late April.

The Cowboys had actually thought about drafting Biadasz much earlier and were surprised the 2019 Rimington Award winner had fallen to the middle rounds. Biadasz had hip surgery in 2019 and a shoulder clean-up before the NFL combine, but the Cowboys say he'll be ready to go when the team can reconvene after the virtual offseason.

A spring without OTAs or minicamp is not an ideal start for a rookie, but the Cowboys like his toughness and savvy. Biadasz can play guard, too, but center was his primary position in college and the Cowboys will see what he can do amongst a crowded group of veterans.

Don’t Forget About Last Year’s Draft Pick

Don't Forget About

The Cowboys actually have two draft picks joining the offensive line this season. One is 2020 fourth-round pick Tyler Biadasz. The other is Connor McGovern, last year's third-round pick.

McGovern missed his entire rookie season with a pectoral injury he suffered during spring workouts. But the Cowboys like his potential. A year ago, they viewed him as a 'blinking light' pick at the end of the third round - too good to pass up, even with Travis Frederick on his way back from GBS at the time.

McGovern was an All-Big Ten player at Penn State, and he started full seasons at center and guard for the Nittany Lions. Now healthy, he could compete at both spots in camp.

Pro Bowl In La’el Collins’ Future?

What We Know

Travis Frederick's retirement is a major loss, just like 2018 when he spent a year on the sidelines battling GBS. But this is still a veteran group with as much experience and talent as any line in the league.

Last year, right guard Zack Martin made his sixth Pro Bowl/All-Pro team in six NFL seasons despite missing most of training camp with a back injury. Left tackle Tyron Smith has dealt with his share of injuries, too, but he reached his seventh career Pro Bowl last year, breaking Hall of Famer Rayfield Wright's franchise record for the most Pro Bowls by a Cowboys offensive tackle.

La'el Collins is also back for his third season as the starting right tackle, and he's comfortable playing on the edge again, just as he did in college. After getting a five-year, $50 million contract extension last September, Collins delivered his best season since joining the Cowboys in 2015. The club believes he's a Pro Bowl caliber player alongside Smith and Martin.

The center spot will be up for grabs in training camp, and maybe left guard, too. But the line's foundation is still clear.

A New Center, A New Direction

What's New

Travis Frederick has apparently shaved his beard, but that's not the biggest change for the five-time Pro Bowl center.

Frederick is retiring after seven seasons with the Cowboys, including a successful, Pro Bowl return from Guillain-Barre syndrome in 2019. He decided it was time for the "next chapter of life" after a self-described "difficult" year trying to reach his high standard of play. The Cowboys have placed him on the Reserve/Retired list and will spread out his $11 million salary cap hit over two years.

Who replaces Frederick? That remains to be seen. The Cowboys have been in this situation before when Frederick spent the 2018 season recovering from GBS. Among the candidates this time around: fourth-round draft pick Tyler Biadasz, also a former Wisconsin standout, and veteran Joe Looney, who filled in for Frederick in 2018.

In 2018, the club also made an in-season switch at offensive line coach, promoting former starting right tackle Marc Colombo to replace Paul Alexander. But with head coach Mike McCarthy now in charge, the Cowboys have hired one of McCarthy's long-time assistants, Joe Philbin, to oversee the position.

Philbin is one of four new assistants with previous NFL head coaching experience. He has coached the offensive line in Indianapolis and most recently Green Bay, where he worked on McCarthy's staff for seven years.

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