- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – Jerry Jones basically bought an ad in the NFL classifieds during Monday’s pre-draft press conference, sending out the message that the Cowboys could be in trade-down mode when they get on the clock with the 18th overall pick.
That news was met with a lot of moaning and groaning from Cowboys fans.
How can you be adamantly against trading down if you have no idea what the offer might be or which players might be available? Folks just don’t trust GM Jerry.
Should they in this situation? Let’s look at the Cowboys’ history of trading down in the first round during the Jerry era.
No. 20 overall (Pritchett) to Detroit for No. 37 overall (LB Dixon Edwards), No. 64 overall (G James Richards) and No. 108 overall (DE Tony Hill).
These three deals have to be judged essentially as one. After all the wheeling and dealing was done, the Cowboys turned the 14th overall pick into a second-round linebacker who started for two Super Bowl title teams (Edwards), a third-round guard who never played an NFL game (Richards), a fourth-round defensive end who played 13 games in two NFL seasons (Hill) and a fifth-round linebacker who made 11 tackles in two separate one-year stints in Dallas (Brownlow).
This was a case of great value on Jimmy Johnson’s trade chart and essentially a push in reality. Russell ended up being a decent running back, rushing for 3,973 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career, and it’s not as if the Cowboys passed on a Hall of Famer who went later in the first round. Edwards contributed to three title teams, starting for two.
This deal would have been a steal if the Cowboys selected offensive tackle Erik Williams at No. 64 overall. They ended up drafting him six picks later.
1993 -- No. 29 overall (S George Teague) and No. 112 overall (Albert Fontenot) to Green Bay for No. 46 overall (WR Kevin Williams), No. 54 overall (LB Darrin Smith), No. 94 overall (RB Derrick Lassic) and No. 213 overall (LB Reggie Givens).
Both of the second-round picks the Cowboys acquired contributed to two Super Bowl title teams. Williams was a quality punt and kick returner who started at receiver for the Cowboys’ last championship team, setting career highs with 38 catches for 613 yards and two touchdowns that season. Smith started all four of his seasons in Dallas.
Teague had a solid nine-year career, but he ended up spending most of that in Dallas anyway. Fontenot also lasted nine NFL seasons, making 81 starts. Lassic lasted 10 games, and Givens never played for the Cowboys.
Give the Cowboys a win for this deal, but it wasn’t lopsided by any measure.
All Brooks did in Tampa Bay was go to 11 Pro Bowls, be named first-team All-Pro five times, win a Super Bowl and establish himself as one of the best linebackers of his generation.
Hannah started the Cowboys’ tradition of early-round offensive line busts, getting hurt in training camp and never playing a game in the NFL. They flipped Davis for a second-rounder (RB Sherman Williams) and fourth-rounder (TE Eric Bjornson), a couple of backups who combined for 10 career touchdowns.
This might be the worst draft-day deal the Cowboys ever made.
Pittman made 18 sacks in eight NFL seasons (10 in four seasons for the Cowboys). Shiver started 25 games, but that was evidence of how weak the Cowboys were at center, as he was out of the league after three years.
Johnson was a huge bust for the Redskins. He never played a game in Washington.
The Cowboys would have been better off staying put and drafting Texas product Tony Brackens in the first round. Brackens, picked No. 33 overall by Jacksonville, had 55 sacks and 27 forced fumbles in his eight-year career.
A couple of Williams’ five Pro Bowl berths were reputation selections after his performance fell off, but he was a dominant force as a playmaking intimidator early in his career. That’s much more than you can say for Sims, who only had one more sack in his career than Williams did.
Ross looked like a steal when he had five picks as a rookie, but the character red flags that caused him to drop into the third round proved true. Bill Parcells got rid of him midway through Ross’ second season. Smith played nine games for the Cowboys, contributing primarily as a return specialist.
This was a good deal for Dallas, just not nearly the steal it seemed destined to be during the rookie seasons of Williams and Ross.
Spears was a serviceable player for the last eight seasons. Ryan was a nonfactor during his two years in Dallas.
But this deal comes down to Steven Jackson vs. Julius Jones.
The Cowboys decided, based strongly on the input of running backs coach Maurice Carthon, that there wasn’t much difference between the top back on the board and the backs who would be available in the second round.
Jackson has rushed for 10,135 yards and counting, more than twice as many as Jones ran for during his career. Jackson has accounted for 64 touchdowns, almost three times Jones’ total.
The Cowboys were tempted to pick Quinn, who they had in the top 10 on their board, but they opted to fully commit to a quarterback with 10 starts under his belt named Tony Romo. Considering that Quinn is with his fourth team and Romo just got $55 million guaranteed, it’s pretty clear that was the right call.
The Cowboys moved back into the first round to select OLB/DE Anthony Spencer, giving up third- and fifth-rounders to do so. No regrets there, with Spencer a solid player coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance and Kolb failing to make an impact in Philadelphia.
This deal would have looked like a stroke of genius if the Cowboys picked Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Ray Rice or Jamaal Charles the next year. Alas, they selected an Arkansas alum to be a change-of-pace back. Felix Jones had some flashes of brilliance, but his Dallas tenure was a pretty big disappointment given the quality of backs picked behind him.
This was still a solid deal for Dallas.