Dallas Cowboys fans were met with a big surprise on Monday as Travis Frederick announced his retirement from the NFL at 29 years old. The three-time All-Pro center dominated the trenches for America's Team since he was drafted in 2013 and was consistently one of the league's finest. Frederick would've likely continued to play at a high level for a few more seasons, but dealing with Guillian-Barré Syndrome in 2018 caused him to hang up the cleats.
While this shocked the team's fanbase, I doubt it shocked the team's front office one bit. I actually believe – and I am speculating here – that the Dallas Cowboys organization knew fully well this was coming.
After all, Frederick himself suggests it on his social media announcement when speaking about his reaction to dealing with his health issues:
“I had to prepare for my career potentially ending. […] After months of contemplation, I not only accepted that moment, but I also, surprisingly found myself welcoming the moment. I was ready for the next stage of my life; however, the competitor in me would not accept going out without returning to the field.”
And so, his competitor didn't allow it, indeed. Frederick returned to the field in 2019 and played his way into another Pro Bowl, his fifth in his seven-year career. But it sure sounds like he knew all along odds were he was going to retire after one last season. If he did, the Cowboys likely did too.
Which brings us to the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. With glaring needs at safety and tight end, the front office could've gone with some pretty good prospects available such as Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. But the Cowboys surprised us by drafting a Day 2 interior offensive lineman for the second time in two consecutive years.
Back in April, when McGovern was drafted by the Cowboys I wrote:
“The player is good, but the question lies in how will he be used in Dallas. During NFL Network’s broadcast, Daniel Jeremiah called him his highest graded interior offensive lineman available at the time.”
Despite him possibly being the best player available, it was a weird pick. It's worth pointing out McGovern played both guard and center in Penn State. He started 14 games at center. Could it be that the Cowboys were preparing themselves for a potential Frederick retirement by taking a guy they knew they could develop?
A rookie-season injury made McGovern's season even more of a mystery. Despite multiple injuries at guard during the 2019 campaign, the Cowboys never seemed to be in a hurry to introduce their third-round rookie to the NFL regular season. Instead, they waited patiently and let Xavier Su'a-Filo fill in. Did they even want to play him at guard?
It's impossible to know for certain if this was the truth, but these speculations don't sound very far-fetched. According to Mike Fisher, some friends of Frederick knew his retirement was a possibility.
Just talked to a few more #Cowboys people about Travis Frederick decision. His friends inside the team knew this might be in play. Likely helped the organization be somewhat prepared as well.
It hurts to lose a player like Travis so early in his career. He was a true professional and a great player in the trenches. Whoever tries to fill Frederick's shoes in the starting lineup will likely fail. But it's good to know the team has viable options to attack the issue.
Joe Looney was extended earlier this month, providing the team with even more choices when the time comes.
As far as Travis Frederick is concerned, he shall be remembered as one of the greatest offensive linemen in franchise history. Thanks for the memories, #72.