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Mailbag: How Deeply Will Frederick Be Missed?

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Do you see the Cowboys resigning or keeping Tavon Austin, or who would be the best replacement for Randall Cobb? DAVID JONES / LATHAM, NY

Nick: I really don't see Austin returning. Even though the Cowboys don't have an actual punt returner on the roster, don't forget that Austin was with the Rams when John Fassel was their special teams coach. And the Rams traded him to Dallas so I doubt there's a spot for him on the roster this year. And that's really what Austin did the best. He wasn't really a great slot receiver to work the middle. He was more about getting deep and that wasn't used as much. To answer the question, I think the draft is going to be the way it's done and we posted a really informative article last week by Kyle Youmans that detailed five options throughout the entire draft.

Rob: I expect them to look in the draft, if not the second wave of free agency, for a receiver capable of playing the slot. It's such a good draft class. But Austin has been their primary punt returner, too, so if he doesn't return they'll have to address that position too.

"How much will the loss of Frederick have on this offense? If that's even able to be put into words..." – VICTOR RAHM / CHANDLER, AZ

Nick: Nick: That's a tough question to answer right this second, because we really don't know what their plan is as far as replacements. Just like that, this could affect the draft strategy. Not saying the Cowboys have to get one in the first round, but possibly the first three rounds. But I'll say this about Frederick, he seemed to help in the organization of the play more than anything. Sure, he might've lost a step or two. But just look at the red-zone numbers. In 2017, the Cowboys converted a touchdown 59 percent of the time, which was above the league average. And when he was gone in 2018, that number dipped to 48. Last season, it went back up to 57 percent. Might seem small, but just his awareness, especially down in the red zone, has proven to be a factor. The Cowboys can't revert back to red-zone troubles again in 2020.

Rob: Frederick has been the engine of this offensive line for so long. Even if he didn't play to his elite standards last season, as he acknowledged in his retirement statement, he still was the guy making those critical calls at the line of scrimmage. Joe Looney did a solid job in his place in 2018. But the offensive line had a more balanced performance last season with Frederick back in the lineup. Dak Prescott was sacked a career-low 23 times and Zeke Elliott finished second in the league in rushing. The Cowboys' replacement, whoever it is, likely won't be able to match Frederick's experience, and that's so important at the center position.

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