With the NFL owners meeting in sunny Hawaii this week it's ironic that player business has slowed to a glacial pace. Less than three weeks after they began, free agent moves have come to a near standstill.
That stasis has to be frustrating Cowboys faithful, who were hopeful that a deal for Saints DE Darren Howard could have been worked out by now. New Orleans was facing a deadline of March 17th to move the disgruntled end, but Howard deferred it by signing the Saints' tender offer. The Saints now have time to strike a harder bargain with a team like Dallas, but here are two reasons why I believe the trade will happen, but not until the end of April at the earliest:
So what long-term options do the Saints really have? They move Howard now and gain stability, or keep him around and risk blowing up their team in 2006.
From Dallas' perspective, the desire to get Howard is great, but the need to get him now is not. Jerry Jones has said he does not want to trade draft picks for players and at this point he's right. I see no risk that Howard will be traded to another club before the draft. The other teams that keep being linked to Howard trade are Washington, Minnesota, Seattle, Miami and Denver. Let's look at the likelihood of each team trading for him:
New Orleans might be trying to drive up the price of getting Howard, but why give them anythingbetween now and the end of the draft? Dallas has no visible competition and New Orleans' need to move Howard only increases as the season approaches. Sure, a new team might emerge after the draft, but teams won't exactly have more cap room then, will they?
I expect Dallas to turn off the phones, keep the 42nd pick, use it on the best available player and then call New Orleans after the first mini camp. Who knows? Dallas might draft an end who looks so impressive to the coaches, it makes them disregard the Howard deal altogether. Stranger things have happened.
In any event, put those Darren Howard thoughts on the back burner of your mind. Unless Jerry convinces Saints GM Mickey Loomis to cave on his trade demands over some mai tais this week, it just ain't gonna happen in the near future.
Update: Minnesota, that "other team" mentioned upthread, may be just that. The Orlando Sentinel passes on the rumor that the Vikings might consider sending the 18th overall pick to New Orleans for Howard. The Vikings have the cap room to make this happen. Time will tell, but it should not compromise the Cowboys thinking in any way. The Cowboys would have to send the 20th pick and a lower pick or package a starting player and a pick for Howard to trump the Vikings, if this rumor has merit. Both prices are too high, in my humble opinion.