That was Jerry basically saying that he's not going to tip his hand. Notice the qualifier - unless we have an opportunity in the draft to do something. Well, I thought that was what this was all about, using Julius to move around in the draft. I don't think anybody is expecting a straight up trade for another player; it's all about grabbing extra picks or trying to move up in the draft. So I expected the comments from Jerry to sound just like they did - non-committal.
The most amusing part of the rumor is the frenzy it has caused among the Cowboy faithful. Have you seen the number of trade scenarios being posted around the Internet? It's hilarious. If we trade Julius plus our 2nd and 3rd round picks, and throw in two cases of brand-new footballs, a dozen jock straps and an autographed picture of Bill Parcells - we can move up to get Calvin Johnson! OK, that's a little overboard, but the machinations some people are going through to create a viable trade is amusing. I guess we need something to talk about before the draft arrives.
What interests me more are the reasons for keeping or trading Julius. What exactly we can get for him I'll leave to Jerry and Stephen Jones. I've already stated that if it's less than a 2nd round pick, which I suspect it is, then I wouldn't do it.
But why would we trade him? The answer, one way or the other, has to do with his production versus his contract. Julius is in the final year of his contract. So far, there have been no signs that the Cowboys have talked about a new contract with him. But it's still really early for that kind of talk; I wouldn't expect that to happen until closer to training camp or in the season itself. The Cowboys have to decide what kind of back they expect Julius to be in the long-term. There's the rub.
We all remember the second half of his rookie campaign. Julius came on the scene and lit the house on fire. The game he had against the Seahawks on a Monday night is still etched in my memory. By the end of that season, I was convinced we had a special back. Unfortunately, he hasn't reached that level again. He struggled through the next season, partly because of an ankle injury, and turned in what could be described as an average NFL RB season. Last year, he started out strong but couldn't sustain it all the way through, and by the end of the year his carries per game were down drastically. Maybe some of that was on Bill Parcells, who constantly talked about resting him and keeping him fresh. But that point has to be questioned because down the stretch we were fighting for our playoff lives, so you would think Parcells would have ridden him if he was the better back. But down the stretch, it did appear that Marion Barber was playing better.
When you take all that in, you have optimism mixed with doubt. He's shown flashes of being a special back, the kind that can take you to the top, but it's never been consistent, and he's had injuries in two of his three seasons, raising concerns about his durability. This is probably what's vexing the Cowboys management. Is he the special back we saw at the end of his rookie year and in a few games since, or is he an average back that is simply on par with a dozen other backs in the league?
Jerry has to make a decision on that before anything else. Now that he's in the last year of his contract, Jerry must decide if they are going to attempt to sign him to a long-term deal. If they don't have that intention and don't trade him, then they are just riding what they know for the upcoming season and putting off the inevitable issue of getting a new RB to compliment MB3. If he has a big season, then the price of getting him re-signed skyrockets. If they trade him, then they need a new RB this year unless they believe that Tyson Thompson is ready to fill that role.
So I'm going to venture a guess, the Cowboys are going to make a serious effort to trade him. I don't think Julius has done enough to convince the Cowboys organization that he's a special back. I'm not saying I don't think Julius is a good back because I think he is, but is he special enough that the Cowboys are going to do everything they can to sign him long-term? I don't see that right now.
The safe play is to keep him one more year and continue with the very effective tandem of JJ and MB3. But while coaches are usually thinking only about the next season, GM's have to think about the next few seasons. If re-signing Julius is going to cost a lot more than replacing him with a draft pick, but Jerry thinks the production could turn out to be fairly similar, then the answer becomes obvious. If Jerry is looking at this draft and thinks he can get a back to pair with MB3 and still get the same combination of production, he will do everything he can to trade him.
Having said all that, in the end I don't think the other NFL teams will offer enough to make it worthwhile to the Cowboys. Because of that, I think Julius will remain ½ of the Cowboys rushing tandem.