The Dallas Cowboys’ 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Chargers was satisfying in many ways. KaVontae Turpin had a true breakout performance, the running game was efficient, and the defense looked good in just about every aspect. We even saw them cut down on the penalties, although there is still work to be done and they may have benefitted from an officiating crew that was not at all flag-happy. But not everythings was great. One problem in particular still lingers. Swing tackle is unsettled and unsettling. Josh Ball again was inconsistent, yet he seems to still be the best option as the third offensive tackle on the roster. It is not a good situation. There is a way to address this that has not been widely discussed, so let’s dive in. While the depth at OT is bad, it is exactly the opposite all along the defensive line.
It is time for the Cowboys to look for a trade partner that is in an opposite situation. They need to reach out to teams that are facing hard decisions on who to keep at offensivetackle, but have clear questions along the defensive line. Dallas is so rich in defensive line talent, they can offer up both ends and tackles from their current players. None come with a contract that would cost the other team more than $1.75 million, nor would teams acquire a player that would lock them into a long-term deal.
It is easy to find multiple players that would be trade bait for the Cowboys to dangle. The most likely are:
- DE Tarell Basham
- DT Carlos Watkins
- DE Dante Fowler
- DE/DT Chauncey Golston
- DT Trysten Hill
All of these are players that have looked like they belong on the 53-man roster. None are projected starters, and all have been on the field in the first two preseason games. It may be possible that this has not been just to try and figure out who goes and who stays on the roster. Preseason games can also serve as a showcase for tradeable players.
There has been talk of trying to trade some of the players above, with Hill’s name perhaps the most mentioned. For Dallas, trades usually involve acquiring future draft capital, but that should not be the case here. The need at tackle should drive a player-for-player swap.
One reason Hill is mentioned as part of a trade is that he is entering his fourth season and moving him now means the team would not be forced into a contract decision if he has a very good year. However, that would mean passing up on a chance to get a sweet compensatory pick if he were to go to another team in free agency next year. Golston still has two years left on his rookie deal, which may make Dallas hesitant to part with him since they love them some cheap, but good, players.
That leaves the three veterans. All are just under contract for this season plus all are on very reasonable deals. And all have shown up in preseason and practices. They cover both DE and DT, so the Cowboys can approach teams with different needs. With the surfeit of roster worthy defensive line talent, it is highly likely at least one of the players would be gone after the final cutdown. If the brain trust can find one or more teams that have a similar case at OT, this seems like a no-brainer.
While there are reasons to prefer to trade one of the veterans rather than the younger players still on rookie deals. that does not mean Golston or Hill should be strictly hands off as trade bait. It is just a matter of what Dallas is pursuing. If they are looking at a player of equivalent talent also on a rookie deal, it might justify, or even require, Golston or Hill.
All of the possible players discussed are clearly depth players for Dallas. And there might be others, although less likely. Quinton Bohanna and John Ridgeway may well be in competition for the same job on the roster. However, there is an excellent chance one could be snuck onto the practice squad, and both are so early in their contracts the team should want to keep both around to continue their growth.
The only obstacle to all this is Stephen Jones’ unique philosophy in roster management, which includes an aversion to trades as well as free agent signings. However, in this case it really makes no sense to not try for a trade when you are going to have to release someone to get down to the 53-man roster. There is also a bit of interchangeability with the names. If Fowler goes to someone else but you can keep Basham, or vice versa, the team really loses nothing.
Most importantly, if they find a legitimate swing tackle that lets them look to getting Ball to the practice squad, they solve a glaring issue. It not only would provide a decent backup for Tyron Smith and Terence Steele, it keeps Tyler Smith at left guard where he needs to be, at least for this year. There is even a chance they could acquire someone who would challenge Steele for the starting job later in the season.
It all makes too much sense to disregard. Use a surplus of talent at one (or more) positions to fix a shortage at another. Hopefully the management sees the logic of this. Let us all hope that is not a bridge too far for them.