We still have days to go before the 2016 NFL draft kicks off, and the trades are already huge. First came the monster deal for the Los Angeles Rams to move up and get the first-overall pick from the Tennessee Titans. Then the Philadelphia Eagles jumped into the fray, making a similar (very costly) trade with the Cleveland Browns to move into the number two spot. Both have made no secret that they are targeting quarterbacks. Now that the top two spots have been dealt, it is not looking like there is much chance for the Cowboys to be involved in a trade.
Or is there? While my colleague Michael Sisemore rightly points out that Dallas likely couldn't come away with the kind of haul the Titans and Browns did, there are still some real possibilities for Dallas to move out of the fourth-overall spot.
While the Cowboys have not made any noise about moving back, there is certainly discussion about the picks on either side of them. The San Diego Chargers have made no secret about being very open to trading out of the third spot. And now there are reports that the Jacksonville Jaguars are getting calls about their number five pick. If there is interest in those two selections, then it is not at all out of the question that the Cowboys could find a partner. Perhaps they are just playing it a little closer to the vest.
That leaves the question of who other teams might want to come up and draft. With the Rams and Titans almost universally believed to be looking to take Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, most likely in that order, there just aren't that many players in this draft class that would seem to be all that attractive.
But it only takes one.
The fact that two of the three quarterbacks seen as legitimate first-round prospects are spoken for leaves a pretty skimpy market for teams with a real need for a passer. That makes the third name in that group, Paxton Lynch, a suddenly hot commodity. Suppose the Chargers hang onto their selection and take Laremy Tunsil, who was thought to be the top-pick overall until the Rams made their move. Suddenly the Cowboys have the key to Lynch. They would of course have to move back from whoever they could take at four to trade down. And right now, the list of players who might be worthy of that pick has narrowed considerably, at least in the minds of many. Some see only three: Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, and Jalen Ramsey. But just suppose Dallas could find a team only a few picks back that has a real need at quarterback and also might be unwilling to risk having someone else make a big move and get ahead of them?
Hello, San Francisco 49ers. They currently hold the seventh-selection overall. And they look to be headed to a messy divorce from Colin Kaepernick. We all know that the renowned football genius Chip Kelly loves him some quarterback, as evidenced by his acquisition of Sam Bradford during his methodical and thoughtful stewardship of the Eagles. In a trade, the Cowboys could swap their fourth pick for the 49ers seventh and their third-round pick, 68 overall. Using one of the common trade value charts, that is very close to an even deal (1800 points for the fourth vs. 1750). And with the first four picks going (in some order) Goff, Wentz, Tunsil, and Lynch, that would mean at least one of Bosa, Elliott, or Ramsey would still be available at seven. Not a bad situation at all.
But suppose the 49ers or someone else trade up with the Chargers to get Lynch. That would leave Tunsil as potential trade bait, since it is not very likely Dallas would want to take him with the stellar talent they have already invested in on the offensive line. And it just so happens the Browns, flush with all that draft capital from the Eagles trade, currently hold the eighth pick. They could trade the Cowboys that pick, their own third round pick at 65 (leaving them the 77th pick acquired from Philadelphia), and pick 100 in the fourth, also picked up in plucking the Eagles. Those total 1765 points, even closer to an even swap. And it would give Dallas not only the extra third-rounder, but back-to-back picks at the top of the fourth. Meanwhile, the Browns walk away with the player they would likely have taken if they had not traded back in the first place. That seems like something that could conceivably be of interest to them.
If something even more unexpected should happen (and those things often do in the draft), it is possible that the Cowboys could go on the clock with both Tunsil and Lynch still available (one of Michael's dream scenarios in another post). The thought of a couple of teams wanting to get into their place and sweetening the deal is enough to make one giddy. And with the top candidates for the Cowboys all having some arguments that can be made against their value in the top five, as Ryan Ratty described earlier, they might even want to entertain an offer from someone much further back. The New York Jets and Denver Broncos, for instance, are still without a real answer at quarterback - and they would have to come with a boatload of picks to try and make a deal.
It is all speculative, of course, but there seems to be a bit of trade fever sweeping through the league at the moment. The big deals don't just offer teams a chance to get a player they really want, they generate headlines and interest, something that NFL teams seem to find almost as valuable.
Dallas may sit at four and take a very good player. But just because there have already been a couple of blockbuster trades does not mean the market is closed at all. It may actually be more wide open than ever.