When it comes to professional sports, the trade deadline is typically a very exciting time in the season. By then the contenders have separated from the pretenders, injuries have taken their toll, and excessive depth (or lack of) is recognized. A smart move at the deadline can propel a team into the playoffs and/or help build a stronger base for upcoming seasons. Unfortunately this is rarely the case in the NFL.
The NFL is by far the least exciting professional league at the deadline. The culture of the league and structure of contracts do not encourage big trades at any point in the year, let alone at the deadline. It’s exciting to think about possible big names on the move but it’s just not very likely. The good news (or bad depending on how you view the Cowboys) is the Cowboys will no doubt be looking for pieces.
Since Barry Church was lost for the year the Cowboys have been searching for an answer at the safety position. Danny McCray is just a guy (JAG). He fills a vacancy at safety but holds little upside. He has been in multiple situations where he could have made a play on the ball but resisted, and played it safe, forgoing the play that could have been. He is excellent on Special Teams but so is recently acquired safety Eric Frampton. Speaking of Frampton, he is another JAG with very little upside. He could have had an easy interception in the Carolina game that would have ended the game. His ball skills are so poor he almost missed the ball completely. The eternally injured Matt Johnson is, of course, injured. Jason Garrett has recently admitted to be contemplating placing him on IR for the remainder of the season. The Cowboys need a smart safety who can make a play on the ball. He doesn’t have to be a star just someone who will make a play when it is available. If you are too scared to play the ball or if you lack the ability to catch, you do little to inhibit the big play. Quarterbacks love the big play but are hesitant to try it because the risk of interception becomes greater with the deep ball. If the Cowboys pose no threat to intercept, what would prohibit the opposing QB from taking more chances deep?
Recently signed Charlie Peprah may be solution. Peprah is a former Green Bay Packer and Super Bowl champion. He has experience as a starter and playing in substitution packages. He is fairly versatile and best of all – he will make the play on the ball. Without a trade Paprah appears to be the best option at safety and will be starting along side Gerald Sensabaugh in no time.
Jermey Parnell is the lone backup to starting tackles Doug Free and Tyron Smith. Operating as a swing tackle Parnell needs to be ready to plug into either side at a moment’s notice. Ideally the Cowboys would only want to use him on the right side so if Tyron ever went down, Free would move to left and Parnell would take over at right.
Parnell is an absolute mystery to fans and media. What is known is the club likes him and relatively trusts him since he’s in this important role. It’s still a huge gamble keeping only one unproven tackle to backup an already troubled offensive line. If the Cowboys see something attractive in the trade market do not be surprised to see them act.
With Sean Lee’s season ending surgery, Dan Connor is pushed into the starting role alongside Bruce Carter. Dan Connor was signed in the offseason to provide depth and insurance behind unproven Bruce Carter. When Bruce Carter started performing extremely well Dan was seen of as more of a luxury than a necessity (much like Mike Jenkins is to the secondary). After Sean’s injury the Cowboys certainly look smart for signing Connor as insurance.
Besides moving Connor to the the starting role, the Cowboys responded by signing Ernie Sims off the scrap heap. Sims was drafted in the first round by the Detroit Lions in 2006. He played four years in Detroit and a year in both Philadelphia and Indianapolis. He is not expected to start at ILB for the Dallas Cowboys but rather provide depth behind Dan Connor and Bruce Carter. Ernie isn’t a difference maker but he is reliable and knows the intricacies of the game. He underachieved early in his career, which he is blaming on immaturity, and has vowed to be a different man going forward. With his signing it’s doubtful the Cowboys will be on the trade market for anyone else but still possible.
When it comes to season-changing deadline trades, set your expectations low. It is rare for NFL teams to be very active at the trade deadline. It’s even rarer for a well-known player to be traded. It’s much more likely a fringe player will be what is traded. Typically it’s a fringe player fans and media know little about. Of course Mike Jenkins could be traded for something bigger but the chances of that are slim. The Cowboys recently added to two of the three identified needs this week. The remaining need is on the offensive line and more specifically someone who can assist at tackle in case of emergency. Expect a little move if anything. Knowing that little moves can have big consequences, the right move at the deadline could save the Dallas Cowboy’s season.