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BTB Mailbag: Should Cowboys try Rico Gathers at WR? Trading for Earl Thomas?

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A fresh batch of mailbag questions to answer about the Dallas Cowboys.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Minicamp Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back with a few more mailbag questions while we all wait out the dog days of summer until training camp begins. We have two questions today, one about a potential position change for Rico Gathers, the other posing yet another potential trade for Earl Thomas.

As usual, we always encourage you to send over thoughts you might have (email right here). And off we go:

Scott from Ohio: “There is a lot of discussion around Rico Gather’s ability to pick up the nuances of the tight end position. Could he instead just compete for a wide receiver spot, given his size advantage in the red zone?”

It’s understandable to look at Rico Gathers, digest his past two preseasons, and be willing to exhaust all options in giving him a roster spot. However, if we’re worried about the nuances at tight end, moving him to receiver, one of the hardest positions to transition to in the NFL seems like a step in the wrong direction for one big reason.

The NFL’s ideal thresholds for athletic profiles dramatically change from tight end to receiver and that is a big deal breaker for most NFL teams. It’s just not so simple to move guys from one place to another.

[Note: Even though they were written many years apart, both Gil Brandt and Todd McShay give very similar answers in their guides to understanding NFL measurements. We used their guides a few weeks back when measuring the speed of the Cowboys WR corps.]

Gathers’ size and athleticism seem great when measuring his thresholds against what a typical team looks for in an NFL-caliber tight end:

NFL TE Thresholds Height Weight 40 Broad Jump Short Shuttle
Ideal NFL TE 6'4 - 6'7 255 - 265 4.85 114 in. 4.2
Rico Gathers 6'6 285 4.75 115 in. 4.56

Gathers has great size for the tight end position, even though Gathers’ weight seems more in line with an NFL defensive tackle, he carries it well. Gather’s 4.75 40-time is above average for his size. His basketball background has shown up quite a bit in the preseason with his ability to go up and grab the football. It’s easy to see why the Cowboys believed he was a worthy candidate to transition from basketball to football because he’s a definite mismatch. With that said, he’s still not even remotely a fit as an NFL receiver:

NFL WR Thresholds Height Weight 40 Broad Jump 10-yd Split 20-yd Split Short Shuttle
Ideal NFL WR 6'0 - 6'5 200 - 225 4.55 120 in. 1.6 2.65 4.15
Rico Gathers 6'6 285 4.75 115 in. 1.71 2.79 4.56

Gathers is not only too heavy but he lacks the burst of NFL receiver standards. In addition, agility is a big part of a receiver’s evaluation for which Rico is sub-par in all categories. Those measurements are much closer to that of an offensive lineman than an NFL-caliber receiver.

Rico Gathers was always going to be a project, having last played football at age 13. If Gathers is going to have any chance at a roster spot, it’s going to have to be at tight end, it’s plenty crowded enough at receiver.

Our second mailbag topic was a trade suggestion from BTB reader William:

Would trading Cole Beasley, Bo Scarbrough, and Charles Tapper be too much for Earl Thomas?

My first thought is just how hard it is in today’s NFL to pull off player-for-player trades. It still happens but not nearly as frequent as teams flipping a pick for a player. The reason it’s difficult is because teams tend to overvalue their own players which makes other teams balk at the asking price. No matter what level of truth was in the initial reports about Seattle’s asking price for Earl Thomas, it’s telling that nothing has happened.

Earl Thomas’ trade value was at its highest when the league year began. The moment the Cowboys reportedly considered but declined trading their third round pick for Thomas, his value dipped and now he’s likely more valuable to the Seahawks. Thomas is still a great player but the Seahawks would be fortunate if a team was willing to part with anything better than a fourth round pick in the current safety market. The only way his trade value will rise significantly is if/when another team suffers a major injury. Even then, there are cheaper options on the market that will be a lot easier to re-sign than Thomas may be. Thomas would likely be friendlier to a team like the Cowboys but he’s still looking for security. Keep in mind that Thomas is on a one-year deal and no team is going to trade anything for Thomas without the ability to negotiate an extension.

Back to teams overvaluing their own. If we’re proposing this trade, maybe we’re overvaluing our own here. For starters, what value does Charles Tapper have to anyone outside the Cowboys organization? He’s going into his third season and has played a total of two NFL games but has spent ample time in the training room. Tapper’s going to have a hard enough time trying to make the Cowboys roster this season, it’s doubtful that the Seahawks would be interested in him.

Bo Scarbrough was a great value pick for the Cowboys because a rich running back room got richer. He was a seventh-round pick which shows that other teams thought differently, including the Seahawks who drafted Rashad Penny in the first round. Lastly, Cole Beasley is the big get in this trade proposal but his value isn’t sky-high after the decline he had in 2017. Beasley had the surest hands on the roster catching 76.5% of his targets and leading the Cowboys with 75 receptions for 833 yards in 2016. He received much more attention last year and his numbers decreased by more than half with a 57.1% catch rate, 36 receptions, and 314 yards. Meanwhile, last season, Earl Thomas made the Pro Bowl with almost 90 tackles, two picks, one returned for a touchdown, and a forced fumble.

In order to gain something of value from someone else, you have to give them something they perceive as valuable. A player for player trade, or in this case a package of players for a player in his prime isn’t how this deal gets done for the Cowboys. It’s not because it’s too much but because it’s too little. The Cowboys will have to come with draft picks to pry the three-time All-Pro away from Seattle and concessions must be made for this dream to become real.