The possibility of the Dallas Cowboys trading with the Miami Dolphins for Minkah Fitzpatrick has been just one more topic generating buzz this week. There is another, somewhat related trade story as well, and is the persistent rumors the team cutting ties with former first-round pick Taco Charlton. That may actually be the far more likely one, as the trade demands for Fitzpatrick are reportedly rather high, and there could be 30 other teams interested in his services. Charlton himself is lending a certain credibility to the idea his days with Dallas being numbered.
The waiting game ⏳— Taco Charlton (@TheSupremeTaco) September 12, 2019
This would be a major decision for the Cowboys, who value draft capital greatly and take great pride in making good picks. It would be an admission they got this one wrong. On the other hand, it also indicates that they believe their defensive line group is so strong that they don’t need to hang onto Charlton and wait for him to develop.
Most importantly, it would point to real change in the approach of the front office. One that goes hand-in-hand with the decision during the offseason to part with Scott Linehan and promote Kellen Moore in his place. And there is more than one component to that.
The first is a more hard line, results-driven decision process. In the past, the team has been, at times, overly loyal to both coaches and players that have not produced. That is possibly a component in giving Linehan one more shot last year. Muddying that take is how Linehan seemed to really be selling the problems of the offense in 2017 as more driven by injury and some failings of his subordinates, with the latter paying the price in a general housecleaning below him. Even in light of those arguments that he advanced, the top management and head coach seemed to grant him more leeway than is perhaps wise in the “what have you done for me lately” world of the NFL.
That same thing has been seen regarding past high draft picks that underperformed. The team kept them when the roster spot might have been better used to develop new talent - although in the past, that talent may not have been attractive or promising enough to force their hands. This season, the Cowboys roster appears to be one of the deepest and most talented in a long time. Many have ranked it as one of the elite squads, top to bottom, in the league. While the game against the New York Giants is the smallest of sample sizes, it did nothing to disprove that idea. Arguably the deepest position on the entire team is defensive end. When Robert Quinn returns next week from suspension, the staff has to decide who to release to make room. The signposts increasingly point to Charlton being the logical choice. That assumes they believe Charlton’s strong performance in preseason is just not likely to carry over into regular season games. His being inactive last week could be taken as proof of that.
The other thing this says is that the Cowboys are all in on this being the year they can make a run at a sixth Lombardi. That is a logical influence in both the Moore promotion and a possible moving on from Charlton. They are firing every round in the magazine to make it happen.
And in both cases, the available options played a big part. Hiring Moore as the new quarterbacks coach showed they believed he had real potential. He had to have shown them something to make him the OC with so little experience. Giving him that first year to prove himself might have been a consideration in retaining Linehan one more season as well. They didn’t feel comfortable in giving the job to such a neophyte right off the bat - who would? But seeing him at work in practice, meetings, and games must have reassured them that he had the stuff to handle things this year.
The logic with Charlton seems to be that Quinn, Kerry Hyder, Dorance Armstrong, and Joe Jackson all have more to offer in proven potential and/or expected growth. Don’t forget they also have Jalen Jelks stashed on IR. Charlton may have gained the dreaded label of “progress stopper.” That may be the real driver here.
Some may see releasing Charlton as a failure. But he is now a sunk cost, and the best way to approach these things is to disregard that draft capital that is now long gone, and evaluate things strictly on current and projected value. That is smart roster management. The Cowboys have been doing a lot of that of late. You still always seek to improve the process. This seems to fit exactly that.
Now the caveat: Nothing has been done yet, and we may just be misreading the indicators. Also, that dreaded injury threat is always out there. We don’t want to see that make the decision for Dallas, but Charlton is probably a better option in that case than whomever they could try and replace him with.
If his time with Dallas is ending, the team is probably working to get some kind of draft pick back in a trade. But if nothing appealing materializes, then they can just release him outright and move on.
That is not how they have always done things. But this year, with what may be a golden opportunity given what the offense appears to be becoming, it is the way to go now. If Charlton leaves, we should all wish him the best and hope he finds some success in another uniform. The Cowboys just have to focus on what is best for the team.