Jerry Jones has an itchy trigger finger.
The Cowboys owner loves wheeling and dealing on draft day. So much so that he sometimes gets more caught up in getting value on his draft card than in getting value with the players he selects. Jerry is already dropping hints that he might pull one or more deals this year.
Two types of deals are being suggested. The first is a drop down from the 20th pick in order to get extra selections in the second round and/or reclaim a third round selection after sending Dallas' to Houston for Drew Henson. The other option is to repeat 2004, and trade out of the first round to gather an extra first rounder in 2006. Jones recently said, "that's a very real consideration because usually the opportunity is there, and I may do it." Since this draft is considered weak at the top, with no must-have quarterbacks, pass rushers, defensive tackles or offensive tackles, a top pick next year might be more valuable than one now.
The question is what type of deal might Jones find, and what teams are likely to trade with him? The second question is almost impossible to determine before the clock starts on April 24th. Nobody, for example, could have predicted last year that Buffalo would be such a strong suitor for J.P. Losman until the deal occurred. Since this draft is so uneven, with the value of players varying wildly, it is hard to know what players might fall in the first round, generating instant desire among some mysterious team and an equally instant deal.
What we can determine is the relative value of the Cowboys' second pick. Let's assume that Dallas will use the 11th pick and put the 20th up for bid. What type of deal might we see? I'll consider same day trades -- trading for picks this year, or a futures trade, where a 2006 pick is part of Jerry's bargain.
Same day trade value The Cowboys 20th pick is worth 850 points. There is always the possibility that a team at the bottom of the round, somebody like the Eagles, the Patriots, the Steelers or the Falcons could jump up a few spots, leaving Dallas in the late first, but giving them points value equal to a third rounder. Let's take the Falcons as a hypothetical. If they called Dallas on draft day and offered to swap their 27th pick for Dallas 20th (lets say, for argument's sake, that they wanted Mark Clayton), Dallas would be due 170 points. That is the equivalent of a late third round pick, and perhaps a sixth or seventh rounder. Any trades with teams picking after Atlanta in the first round would generate similar value.
Another option is trading out of the first round, as the Cowboys did last year in the Julius Jones trade. There are two teams with two second rounders, the Eagles and the Packers. If Dallas were to deal with Green Bay, the Cowboys could drop from 20 to 51 and also pick up the Packers 59th pick and a fourth rounder, leaving the Pokes with three second rounders and two fourths.
A similar swap with the Eagles would likely yield both of Philly's seconds, the 35th and 63rd overall, as well as a fifth rounder. This would give Dallas picks at the top, middle and end of the second round, something to consider in a year where round two is not that much different from the end of round one. (Philadelphia has also been an active trader in recent years, moving up to obtain DE Jerome McDougle in '03 and OT Shawn Andrews last year.)
The value of a futures trade Let's look at the Julius Jones trade for insight into how another futures trade would work. Last year, Dallas had the 22nd pick, which is valued at 780 points. Buffalo offered its second rounder, the 43rd overall, which is worth 470 points. The difference is 310 points, or the value of a late second round pick. As I pointed out in part two of the draft series, futures picks are upgraded one round. Buffalo could either have given Dallas a second 2004 second rounder or a 2005 first. Not having an extra second rounder, they chose the latter.
This is the type of deal we would expect from teams in the middle of the first round that feel they are only a player or two away from making a deep playoff run. Teams like Minnesota, Kansas City, Baltimore or Seattle fit this profile. On the other hand, it is also the type of deal a rebuilding team would make if that key player starts to fall. Imagine that on draft day, Alex Smith gets out of the top 10 and starts to slide. Teams like the Dolphins, Browns, Cardinals or Packers, who desperately need a future QB, could ring the phone at Valley Ranch and make it deja vu all over again for Cowboys fans.
Judging from Jerry Jones' tone, it is clear that his phone has already been ringing and the offers are starting to sound tempting. Unless a top 12 rated player falls to the 20th spot, I'll bet that Trader Jerry will emerge yet again this year to fill day one with intrigue.