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Work those phones, Stephen Jones: Why Cowboys should look for last-minute trades prior to roster cut deadline

As you are reading this, the Cowboys could be working the phones for one or more trades.

Rams v Cowboys Pre-season game Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images

Final roster cuts are less than a week away. On Tuesday, August 31st, teams must reduce rosters in one fell swoop from the current 80 to a maximum of 53 players.

Those roster cuts are usually accompanied by a flurry of trades both before and after the deadline, and the Cowboys have not been averse to joining that flurry, at least since Will McClay took over as the VP of player personnel in 2013. Here’s an overview of the Cowboys’ trade activity around final roster cuts since then:

  • In 2013, a trade didn’t materialize until after final roster cuts when the Cowboys traded for LB Edgar Jones from the Kansas City Chiefs on the day after final roster cuts. They then followed that up by trading DT Sean Lissemore to San Diego and TE Dante Rosario to Chicago the next day, both for seventh-round picks.
  • In 2014, they traded DE Ben Bass to New England for CB Justin Green in mid-August and traded for DE Lavar Edwards on the day of final roster cuts for a conditional seventh-round pick.
  • In 2015, the Cowboys acquired RB Christine Michael in a trade with Seattle for a conditional seventh-round pick after final roster cuts and traded for Oakland WR Brice Butler a week later.
  • In 2016, Denver contacted Dallas to try to trade Mark Sanchez prior to final roster cuts, but the Cowboys didn’t budge, though they reacted quickly once the Broncos cut Sanchez.
  • In 2017, they acquired CB Bene’ Benwickere in a trade (for a conditional sixth-round pick in 2019) with Cincinnati on the day of final roster cuts. One day after final roster cuts they traded for LB Jayrone Elliott out of Green Bay (for a 2018 conditional seventh-round pick).
  • In 2018, they acquired OG Parker Ehinger in a trade with Kansas City for CB Charvarius Ward a day prior to final cuts.
  • In 2019 and 2020 the Cowboys rested.

After two years of holding their feet still around final cuts, there must be a lot of pent up energy in Cowboys HQ to get something done this year, though whatever trade they do come up with is highly unlikely to dramatically change things - at least if the names on the list above are anything to go by.

None of the roster-cut trades delivered world-beaters to Dallas. But expecting world-beaters from these types of trades is not realistic anyway. These trades are about churning the bottom of the roster.

Which is why Will McClay and the rest of the front office are probably busy right now trying to line up a few trades in an effort to perhaps get better value for some of the bubble players they’ve penciled in for the 53-man roster.

An equally likely scenario is that the Cowboys could be looking to invest one of their 2022 late-round draft picks a little early. Given the likely trouble of finding roster spots for their late-round picks and UDFAs this year, the Cowboys might be better served by investing one of those 2022 late-round picks in a trade this year, rather than spending it on a rookie next year who might not even make final roster cuts.

The Cowboys will almost certainly have an eye out for a veteran backup QB, might be looking for an upgrade on special teams, could be interested in a veteran cornerback, and may be open to upgrades at other positions as well. Why not go and get the guys you want instead of sorting through what’s left after final roster cuts?

And with a surplus of players at receiver and linebacker, probably on the O-line as well, and maybe even at safety (once they are all back from the COVID protocol), perhaps some of these surplus players could be turned into future draft capital?

Work those phones, Stephen Jones!