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NFC East notebook: Travis Frederick retires, Trent Williams releases statement, and what to do with Alshon Jeffrey

Here’s what’s happening around the division this week

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In a quieter week thanks to less free agency news, Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick shocked the NFC East and the league as a whole when he announced his retirement at 29 years old. He also made an already-bad of-season for the Cowboys even worse.

Let’s start with Frederick, who’s retirement was unexpected to all but those in the inner Cowboys circle. In his announcement, Frederick referenced his battle with Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system. Frederick said that he knew it was time to hang up the cleats when he no longer felt like he could play football at the highest level anymore.

But the Cowboys will certainly miss him on the field. They selected Frederick back in the first round of the 2013 draft with the No. 31 overall pick and he started every regular-season game he played since then. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014-17 and 2019 and was a first-team All-Pro pick in 2016.

Frederick joins a line of star Cowboys to leave the team/retire in the off-season. Following the 2017 season, Tony Romo retired to join the CBS booth (we all know how well that turned out for him), Dallas cut Dez Bryant following the 2018 season and Jason Witten retired. After the 2019 season, Witten returned and now, after the 2020 season, Frederick has retired.

The blow feels particularly large now though as Frederick becomes the seventh starter to leave Dallas this offseason, joining cornerback Byron Jones, defensive end Robert Quinn, defensive tackle Maliek Collins, wide receiver Randall Cobb, tight end Jason Witten and safety Jeff Heath.

To make matters worse, Frederick is also the Cowboys’ third loss from the offensive line, with backups Xavier Su’a-Filo and Cameron Fleming leaving in free agency.

Frederick’s absence leaves a void that the Cowboys will have to scramble to fill, perhaps in the draft. New head coach Mike McCarthy certainly brought a new dynamic to Dallas when he took over at the helm but it’s hard to imagine that the Cowboys would have expected this much turnover.

Back in January, McCarthy said the following: “We know what a Dallas Cowboys football player looks like: the length, the athletic ability. Let’s get as many good football players as we possibly can. It’s our job as coaches to make sure our scheme boundaries are plenty wide enough to fit any excellent football players into our program.”

Only time will tell how that works out.

Let’s dive into other news around the NFC East this week.

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles nation is predictably, and understandably, still getting its head around acquiring cornerback Darius Slay, filling an instant need at that position with one of the league’s best.

Conversation in Philadelphia has now shifted to wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, a player who GM Howie Roseman called “the elephant in the room.”

“Alshon’s gotta get healthy,” Roseman said. “That’s the No. 1 priority for us and for him. He understands. He knows what’s being said about him. He understands that he has a lot to prove and he’s anxious to do that. So he’s not living in a bubble; he understands that.”

Controversy has surrounded Jeffrey though as there is a perception that he is unhappy with the Eagles organization and that there is tension between him and quarterback Carson Wentz. This potential controversy combined with declining production over the years makes his position with the team uncertain.

2017: 16 games, 57 receptions, 789 yards (13.8), 9 touchdowns

2018: 13 games, 65 receptions, 843 yards (13.0), 6 touchdowns

2019: 10 games, 43 receptions, 490 yards (11.4), 4 touchdowns

The question of what to do with Jeffrey is complicated due to financial reasons. The Eagles signed Jeffrey to a one-year, $14 million contract in 2017. But they signed Jeffrey to a four-year extension when he helped lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory in 2018. Then in 2019, Roseman guaranteed Jeffrey’s 2020 salary to create cap space before knowing that Jeffrey would suffer from a Lisfranc injury that same season.

So now the Eagles are a little stuck in what has turned out to be an odd offseason for them, with the low’s of Malcolm Jenkins’ farewell and the high’s of the Slay signing. Looks like Jeffrey will fall somewhere in between.

Washington Redskins

Well, Trent Williams released a statement this week.

The statement has created some mixed responses. According to Hogs Haven, Washington is now “flexible” with Williams’ trade compensation but will not just give him away.

The Redskins initially gave Williams permission to seek a trade on March 5th. But the combination of the Redskins’ trade compensation requirements and Williams’ contract demands has left both sides exactly where they do not want to be: still on the same team.

Some have said that Washington is making the situation a lot more difficult than it needs to be. I would disagree with that. Whichever team signs Williams to the Pro-Bowl-type contract he is demanding values him enough to pay, and so the Redskins should respect themselves enough to be paid in return. Washington does not have a second-round pick this year and only has seven picks in total heading into the NFL Draft. Settling for less than a second-rounder would be unfair to the Redskins.

If anyone is being difficult, I would argue that it is Williams. He is 31 years old, missed all of last season, and has not played a full 16-game season since 2013. He might be a seven-time Pro Bowler, but he’s a risky acquisition. If Williams really does want to keep playing football, he should start by lowering his expectations - because the Redskins will not lower theirs.

Dallas Cowboys

Beyond the news of the Frederick retirement, reports began circulating this week that quarterback Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are talking about an extension. After placing the exclusive franchise tag on Prescott, it appeared that both parties could only agree to a plan for the upcoming year.

The whispers suggested that Cowboys and Prescott opened up the conversation again and a Yahoo report indicated that talks included a four-year, $35 million deal. It has been reported that Prescott wants a shorter deal so he can cash in earlier while the Cowboys want to lock him up as their main quarterback, and so both sides have been unable to agree up until this point. Maybe they have finally found a compromise that works for both parties.

Beyond these rumors, the Cowboys should still be searching for a third receiver that Prescott can target. They need someone to complement recently-signed Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cooper is of course, a talented weapon and Gallup shows promise, but there is still a hole at the position as Blake Jarwin in relatively unknown and Randall Cobb left for Houston.

It remains to be seen whether the Cowboys choose to fill this hole in free agency or the draft but the combination of three solid receivers, Prescott at quarterback and Ezekiel Elliott at running back could certainly make Dallas a powerful force on offense come next season.