In the wake of Travis Frederick’s untimely retirement last spring, the Dallas Cowboys spent a 4th-round pick on Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz. Our Position Preview series continues with a look at center and whether or not Dallas has found their long-term answer in the middle of the offensive line.
Biadasz began 2020 as the backup to Joe Looney and was eventually forced into a starting role when Looney suffered a knee injury in Week 4. The rookie held his own and would likely have remained the starter even when Joe became healthy, had Tyler not had his own injury that took him out of action.
2021 finds Looney with an expiring contract and Biadasz as the clear starter out of the remaining options. But would the Cowboys be wise to simply hand the job to Tyler, or should they be considering some other options?
2021 Center Contract Statuses
- Tyler Biadasz
- Marcus Henry
- Adam Redmond
- Free Agents
- Joe Looney (U)
U = Unrestricted, R = Restricted, E = Exclusive Rights
True, Tyler Biadasz was arguably the top rookie center in the NFL last season. But even while naming him to their 2020 All-Rookie Team, Pro Football Focus admitted that it was essentially a default selection as there were only two rookie starters at center last year. Biadasz was simply better than Denver’s Lloyd Cushenberry, who apparenly didn’t set a very high bar.
Overall, PFF had Biadasz ranked 33rd among eligible centers last season. His overall score of 53.6 barely edged Joe Looney with a 53.1 rating.
So yes, Biadasz was the best center in Dallas last year. But obviously there’s room for improvement, and the question is if the Cowboys wants to trust that improvement to come from Biadasz’ own development or from looking for an upgrade.
The other question is how much better Biadasz would have looked if the rest of Dallas’ offensive line had been in working order in 2020. His starts came in Weeks 5-8 when La’el Collins and Tyron Smith were completely missing and Zack Martin was out for two games. That was also the immediate aftermath of Dak Prescott’s injury in Week 5.
That was quite the crucible for the rookie to be thrown into and a mitigating factor in analyzing his 2020 performance. Outside of Martin, who’s just an otherworldly talent, nobody on Dallas’ offensive line came away looking good last year.
Even if they ride with Biadasz as the new starter, the Cowboys could still justify bringing back Joe Looney. His value as a backup interior lineman and veteran leader has kept him in Dallas since 2016 on a series of short-term contracts.
Looney will turn 31 this offseason and Dallas does have younger backup options. Guard Connor McGovern was known for his position flexibility when he was drafted and could potentially step into Looney’s role next year. Adam Redmond, who’s been around the team for a few years now, also has guard-center versatility.
Marcus Henry, a former Boise State man like Kellen Moore and about half of Dallas’ roster these days, has spent two years on the practice squad and was called up a few times in 2020 for backup duty.
If Dallas is confident in Biadasz starting and one of McGovern, Redmond, or Henry to back him up then that could make center a low-priority position for the 2021 offseason. But even if they have greater needs elsewhere, should the Cowboys just ignore any opportunities to add fresh talent?
This comes down to one of the age-old debates in team building; roster development versus roster additions. A veteran free agent might provide an immediate upgrade at center but would also be a “progress stopper” for Biadasz.
Sometimes the plug-and-play is your best option, such as when Dallas added 37-year-old Ray Donaldson in 1995 after Mark Stepnoski’s retirement. Donaldson thrived in the great Cowboys offense of the 90s and went to two more Pro Bowls.
There will be some veteran option like that available in 2021. Known names like Alex Mack and Mike Pouncey are currently scheduled to become free agents, and perhaps they would be be better options for the next few years than anyone currently in house.
Only Dallas knows for sure what they perceive in Tyler Biadasz as a long-term option. Given everything else that went down in 2020, it would be perfectly reasonable to give him a full season as starter and see how it goes with the rest of the offense hopefully back to normal.
That’s the big issue looming over the center position for 2021; is Biadasz good enough? But like all matters of faith, we may have to be patient before it’s rewarded.
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Other Cowboys 2021 Position Previews
DE | DT | LB | CB | S
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