Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Travis Frederick Signs Massive Extension - Who Is Next?


Great news over the weekend was buried underneath a preseason game's reviews and observations in a way that was fitting for the player who signed it. 
Unlike some of his more high-profile teammates, Travis Frederick would seem to love it no other way when he signed a six-year extension all the way through the 2023 season (2018-2023) for $56.4 million with exactly half of that money guaranteed in a deal (although there are reports that say less is guaranteed) that makes him the highest paid center in football. 

Frederick surpasses Alex Mack ($45 million), Mike Pouncey ($44.75), Rodney Hudson ($44.5) and Maurkice Pouncey ($44.1) at the center position who have all recently signed deals that all put them in the $9 million-per-year range on five-year deals. Nick Mangold actually had the highest total-value contract of $54 million that he signed way back in 2010 that is about to expire but averaged $7.7 million a year. 
Frederick's new deal puts him at the top of both categories in terms of total value ($56.4 million) and average payout per year ($9.4 million). 
He just turned 25 years old and has completed his third year in the NFL, having already gone to the Pro Bowl twice and making the All-Pro team twice (second team) all while not missing a single game or snap. If you are wondering, Maurkice Pouncey finished first team All-Pro in 2014 and Ryan Kalil of Carolina finished first team in 2015. But, Frederick seems to take a back seat to nobody in his performance. There certainly have been moments in those three seasons when he may not have graded out as perfect, but to be completely honest, there are almost no moments that come to mind. He is as solid as a rock and therefore is seemingly as worthy of a contract extension as you can find. 
People do stress out when their team locks someone up to the biggest contract at their position -- especially Cowboys fans. Why? Because they have been conditioned to stress about the cap situation of this team for since the salary cap was adopted by the league a few decades back. Seemingly, each year the Cowboys have had to scale back, and do gymnastics to get under the bar with annual adjustments for relief instead of adding much needed players. 

I would simply suggest the following in matters like this. Yes, cap room matters and yes, you want to be careful when handing out deals of this magnitude, because there is no doubt that Frederick costs a lot of money moving forward for a center. 
But, this is actually the model move for model franchises. It is the conveyor belt of talent that hopefully never stops turning.  First, you draft a player that you think will be a high quality foundation piece (even if drafting a center or guard in the first round seems foolish to your observers) and then you develop him to be one of the faces of the franchise. And then you pay him (generally, ahead of schedule to save money that you would not save if you waited until the deadline in two years) to stay for his entire prime of his career. He will be past his 33rd birthday when this deal expires, and while nothing is a lock in professional sports, the prospect of this man seeing his whole deal seems relatively assured if his body holds up through the grind. 
In other words, "growing your own" and paying them your cap resources is the best way to achieve and sustain success in today's NFL. And the fact that we can now add Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant, Sean Lee and Travis Fredrick to the familiar names of Tony Romo and Jason Witten demonstrates some progress in the Cowboys' organizational goals to get where the successful franchises are. 
Now, we can look ahead to see who is next for the Cowboys to consider moving forward. Frederick now joins Smith as the longest contracts in the organization through 2023's season. The next three, Tyrone Crawford, Dan Bailey and Ezekiel Elliott, all have through 2020. Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Orlando Scandrick, Jeff Heath and Cedric Thornton - as well as this entire rookie class (besides Zeke) go through 2019. So that leaves the following three free agency classes: 
Expires after 2016: Lance Dunbar, Terrell McClain, Andrew Gachkar, David Irving, Darren McFadden, Brice Butler, Barry Church, Jack Crawford, Ron Leary, Kellen Moore, J.J. Wilcox, Terrance Williams, Morris Claiborne, Gavin Escobar, Rolando McClain 

Notes on the 2016 class: As you look at that above list, the names that are worth discussing at length would be Terrance Williams, Barry Church and Lance Dunbar. Then, based on their seasons, you might also consider David Irving, Brice Butler, Ron Leary and the rest of that 2013 draft class -- Wilcox, Escobar, etc. But, to be honest, there is nobody on this list that gives you too much stress. Williams is a classic case of hoping he makes you sign him with his play. 
Expires after 2017: Brandon Carr, Jason Witten, Doug Free, Zack Martin (option for 2018), La'el Collins, DeMarcus Lawrence, L.P. Ladouceur, Chris Jones, Alfred Morris, Kyle Wilber, Anthony Hitchens, Devin Street, Lucky Whitehead 
Notes on the 2017 class: This group also included Travis Frederick, so you can see from the big ticket items that you wanted to knock that one down quickly. Zack can be pushed to the next year (although there is every indication that in 12 months he will get the Frederick treatment, too) with his rookie-deal fifth year. Then come the interesting deals waiting for both La'el Collins and DeMarcus Lawrence. You can see how both could put in two great seasons (although for Lawrence his suspension situation complicates matters) and become very highly coveted free agents and therefore big deals at the perfect ages. Also, there are several other deals in here you may want to figure out, including a Jason Witten exit strategy. 
Expires after 2018: Cole Beasley, Byron Jones, James Hanna, Benson Mayowa, and basically the rest of the 2015 draft class: Randy Gregory, Chaz Green, Damien Wilson, Mark Nzeocha, Ryan Russell and Geoff Swaim. 
Notes on 2018 class: Hopefully, someone from this group besides Jones (who also can be pushed back with his option year) becomes a priority with their play on the field. From right here, it doesn't look too stressful. 
In other words, now that the Frederick deal is done, I think you would say that the front office has the following contracts listed as their top 3 in-house extensions to consider moving forward, in order:
1. G Zack Martin - two more seasons 
2. DE DeMarcus Lawrence - two more seasons 
3. WR Terrance Williams - after this year, provided he plays well enough to make them commit to his future.

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