The NFL world laughed at the Dallas Cowboys when they traded down in the first round and then selected Wisconsin center Travis Frederick with the 31st pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Three seasons, two Pro Bowls, and two second-team All-Pro appearances later, the Cowboys are the ones laughing. Frederick is now widely regarded as one of the best centers in football, and the anchor of the consensus best offensive line in the league.

Now, the Cowboys preparing to give Frederick a contract extension, according to the Dallas Morning News, which states the Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones shared that information with the team's official web site.

The team picked up Frederick's fifth-year option earlier this offseason, one that will pay him $8.8 million during the 2017 season if he does not agree to an extension before that point. As of this writing, that'd be the fifth-highest cap hit for any center in the league during the 2017 season, per Spotrac.

The Cowboys, dancing as they always are with salary cap issues, will likely want to lower that cap hit, which they can accomplish by agreeing to an extension with Frederick and deferring part of his salary as a signing bonus and paying him a much lower base salary during the 2017 season. This is a strategy the Cowboys have utilized with many of their core players. The players still get their guaranteed money, while the team gets to create room to fill holes with veteran free agents.

The Cowboys often even build additional years into the back end of the contract so they can convert future base salaries into signing bonuses (which makes the money guaranteed) and create additional cap room again. They did this with Tony Romo's contract (which has become much more onerous each time they've done so) as well as Tyron Smith's (which is still a steal because he signed an under-market deal at the time, the market has only inflated, and he's one of the two best tackles in the league and still just 25 years old). They will presumably want to do the same with Frederick, and then with Zack Martin as well, in order to create additional room with which they can sign some players to improve what should again be a below-average defense.

As for what a potential Frederick contract might look like, it's helpful to take a look at the top of the center market.

PlayerAge at SigningYearsValue (MM)
Guarantee (MM)
Nick Mangold27754.0757.7259.725
Alex Mack30545.0009.00020.000
Mike Pouncey26544.7508.95011.000
Rodney Hudson26544.5008.90012.600
Maurkice Pouncey25544.1378.82713.000
Jason Kelce26637.5006.25010.398

That group of six players might not be the six best centers in football right now, but they were all obviously valued as being among that group at the time they signed their deals. The collective group, thanks largely to the presence of Mack, is over a year older than Frederick is right now (25.5). so it's possible and even probable that he outpaces any of those contracts in terms of total compensation, average annual value, and guaranteed money.

Given his age and Dallas' aforementioned propensity for tacking additional years onto the end of contracts, it wouldn't be surprising to see Frederick get a Mangold-style seven-year deal, only one that pays him somewhere more in the Pounceys-Hudson-Mack range in terms of average annual value. He's that good, and that important to the Cowboys.