FRISCO, Texas – There’s no truth to the rumor that I asked for a trade to another writing staff.
Here’s what I’m thinking about during Week 3 of this Dallas Cowboys’ season.
1. They’re probably not going to reach the heights of peak NBA absurdity, but I applaud the NFL for trying.
We’re two games into the season, and we’ve already seen a year’s worth of drama with Antonio Brown and his three-team 2019. Minkah Fitzpatrick already forced his way off a sinking Dolphins ship during just his second season. Jalen Ramsey is arguing with his head coach on the sideline, and the word on the street is he could be traded out of Jacksonville following the Jaguars’ Thursday night game.
That doesn’t even include the story about Jamal Adams, who does not appear to have asked for a trade – but who everyone thinks wants one because he stopped following the New York Jets on Instagram. If that’s not Peak NBA Drama, I don’t know what is.
2. Spare me your hand wringing about honoring contracts, I think this development is simply fantastic.
It’s good for a variety of reasons. If you follow my work at all, you’re probably aware that I’m firmly pro-player. This is a violent, violent game, and even the best players aren’t guaranteed to get more than a handful of years at their peak. I can’t begrudge Jalen Ramsey if he doesn’t want to waste his prime for a franchise that hasn’t been able to generate consistent success in 20 years.
The fact that Joe Thomas was the best tackle in football for the Cleveland Browns, who only posted one winning season during his 10-year career, legitimately makes me want to cry.
3. And let’s not act like NFL clubs are victims in this situation.
If anything, it’s a great thing that teams are more willing to trade than they used to be. Draft picks are valuable commodities, but they aren’t the untouchable asset they have often been portrayed as. Teams whiff all the time, and a proven player is almost always going to be better than an unknown – especially if that proven player has multiple affordable years left on his deal, like Fitzpatrick.
At the same time, it’s easier than ever before to coax production out of young players. Whether it’s the trickle-up effect from the college game, the year-round preparation of football players or the offense-friendly rules that have taken over football, it’s easier than ever for young draft picks to contribute and star in the NFL from the get-go.
For every Trysten Hill who needs time to adjust to the league, there’s a Dak Prescott, an Ezekiel Elliott, a Chidobe Awuzie, an Anthony Brown. At all levels of the draft, it’s possible to find help that can help you quickly.
The point being: it might not be ideal for the Miami Dolphins to lose Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Jaguars might not prefer to trade Jalen Ramsey. But if they do their jobs the right way, they can turn those single players into multiple players who can make their roster better. And if they make the roster better, that next wave of players is less likely to seek a way out of town.
4. There’s also this brutal reality to consider – maybe 1% of the league has the talent and the sway to try something like this.
If you’re at the top of your position or if your team is trying to tank and rebuild the roster, maybe you can pull this off. Otherwise, the odds probably aren’t in your favor. Just ask Melvin Gordon and Trent Williams, who have seen their own situations by teams that have been (as of yet) unwilling to pull the trigger.
You could also ask Taco Charlton, who just found himself unemployed because the Cowboys couldn’t find a trade partner for him.
5. Speaking of which, it won’t take long for the Cowboys to see their old first-round pick.
Twenty-four hours after he was waived by Dallas, Taco was claimed off waivers by the Miami Dolphins – AKA this week’s opponent.
As fun an idea as it might be, it’s hard to imagine Taco actually gets into this game. The Dolphins acquired him Thursday afternoon, so he’d only be able to practice once before the game. He knows nothing about their scheme or his assignments, and it’d be a tough task for him to get up to speed in time to play snaps on Sunday.
Man, it would be fun, though. We’ve seen Taco go against Tyron Smith and La’el Collins countless times during training camp, and we could conceivably see it just four days after he got cut by the team that drafted him? Talk about entertainment.
Again, it seems unlikely. But the timing is hilarious.
6. As for the actual decision to release Taco, I think everything that needs to be said has been.
Way back in 2017, I defended the pick. For all the angst about picking him, I was convinced he couldn’t possibly be that bad. After all, the No. 28 overall pick is basically a second-round pick. Sure, he might not ever develop into an All-Pro. But if he was a starter and a reliable member of the rotation, that would be plenty. I was very confident he could reach that potential.
I was obviously wrong, as were the Cowboys. There’s no way to describe it other than a rare miss by the Cowboys’ personnel department. They took a bet on potential over production, and it bit them.
All of that said, I’ll gladly take their recent track record over most – if not all – of the other teams in the league. Going back to 2010, seven of their last nine first-round picks have been named All-Pro at some point in their career, with the lone exceptions being Taco and Mo Claiborne.
Starting in 2014, when Will McClay started steering the draft process, Taco is the only first-round pick not to reach Pro Bowl and All-Pro status. Two of those picks, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott, are arguably the best player on the team.
Then there’s the late-round work. The Cowboys found their franchise quarterback in the fourth round, on top of half a dozen other starters from Anthony Hitchens and Geoff Swaim to Anthony Brown and Xavier Woods.
The reason this roster is so talented is because of the Cowboys’ success in the draft. Taco is among the worst decisions they’ve made in recent memory, but that’s hardly a reason to lose faith in their process.
7. The Cowboys are oh-so-close to pulling it off.
Jason Garrett and his guys are taking it one game at a time, and that’s fine. That’s what they should do.
But the minute the NFL schedule came out, it was obvious the Cowboys needed to post a 3-0 mark to start things off. New York and Washington looked like rebuilding teams, and Miami looked like a cellar dweller – and that was before the Dolphins started shipping off all their players.
Obviously, the Cowboys still have to get a win Sunday, but this should be the most manageable of the three games. If they win, it’ll be their first 3-0 start since the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
They need that cushion. Not to take any credit away from their talent level, but the schedule starts to look tough soon – whether you want to look at the back-to-back games against New Orleans and Green Bay, or the looming road trips to New England and Chicago later on. There are many teams on the upcoming schedule that look tougher than New York, Washington and Miami.
A 3-0 start now will make it a lot easier to weather the storms up ahead. Who knows when adversity will strike, but it will. And when it does, the Cowboys will be glad they handled their business in the first three weeks.