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From UDFA to All-Pro, how this last-minute trade keeps showing up in Super Bowls to taunt the Cowboys

Charvarius Ward will forever be known as the one that got away.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Stephon Gilmore, Trevon Diggs, and DaRon Bland. That was the starting cornerback group for the Dallas Cowboys entering the 2023 season. It’s also a trio of corners who each have earned All-Pro honors over the last five years. That’s a pretty solid group.

Of course, you can never have enough cornerbacks, and Cowboys fans know this firsthand as we’ve watched the team lose at least one of their starting corners for the year in each of the last two seasons. That’s why whenever we hear about the continued success of former undrafted free agent Charvarius Ward, we can’t help thinking about that time the Cowboys traded him away for a ham sandwich right before final roster cuts. No offense, Parker Ehinger.

To understand this deal, it’s important to point out that the Cowboys cornerback group was really deep in 2018. It featured roster locks Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis. At the time, Ward and fellow rookie UDFA Donovan Olumba were a couple of lengthy development corners who were likely headed for the practice squad because there just wasn’t room on the roster to keep all these guys. So, the Cowboys decided to use their excess depth at one position to address another.

And make no mistake about it, they needed help along the interior offensive line. That’s because a week before the trade, they learned that Travis Frederick had been diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome, a disorder where the immune system attacks the body’s nervous system. So now, their top reserve, Joe Looney, would be thrown into the starting center role and the only other iOL reserve they had was a very raw and well-traveled Kadeem Edwards who was a practice squad journeyman and had never played a down in the NFL. That didn’t change because the Cowboys released him a couple of weeks later.

Suffice it to say, the Cowboys needed interior line help in a big way, so they made the deal to acquire Ehinger, and nothing comes for free. Sadly, Ehinger never played a snap for the Cowboys. A week after being traded to Dallas, he suffered a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve. Those are the breaks.

Ward has since gone on to have a very good NFL career. He played out his entire rookie deal in Kansas City, becoming a resident starter during his last three seasons with the team, including 10 playoff starts. He won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs in 2019.

His good play with the Chiefs earned him a second contract with the San Francisco 49ers worth $40 million over three years. In his second year with the 49ers, he had his best year as a pro as he had five interceptions and a league-leading 24 pass breakups last year. It was good enough to earn All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. In hindsight, it’s crazy to think about him turning out to be better than any of the Cowboys' corners ahead of him on the depth chart back when there wasn’t enough room for him on the team. And now, he’ll be playing in his second Super Bowl in four years, only this time in a reverse role, with the 49ers and against the Chiefs. Sunday’s game will be his 17th playoff game over his six-year NFL career.

Congrats to Ward. It’s nice to see him have a successful career. He’ll forever be known as the one who got away, but even the great Will McClay doesn’t have a crystal ball in front of him. And I’m sure Cowboys fans are content with putting this one behind us, but it would be a lot easier if he didn’t keep showing up in Super Bowls.

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