As trade deadline arrives, should the Dallas Cowboys rebuild?
By Mitch Larson
At the trade deadline, do the Dallas Cowboys swing a big trade or start a rebuild?
It’s been an absolutely brutal year for the Dallas Cowboys. Sitting at 2-6 halfway through the season, everything that could go wrong in Dallas has. Now with the trade deadline looming, the Cowboys are faced with a major choice.
Do they make a big trade hoping to save their season? Or do they embrace a rebuild by giving snaps to younger players and seeing who they already have on their roster?
Dallas just can’t buy a break this season. Free-agent signings have failed to pan out, players have regressed, no one has been able to stay healthy, and the defense has failed to adapt to their new scheme.
If the season ended today, the Cowboys would hold a top-five pick in the draft. Remarkably though, by virtue of how terrible the NFC East is again this year, the Cowboys aren’t out of contention to win the division.
Over their final eight games, the Cowboys will play every member of the NFC East (a combined 6-16-1) as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and San Francisco 49ers. Looking at their remaining schedule there is a legitimate chance that the Cowboys will not win again this season.
They are 1-2 against the NFC East so far this season. Plus, their defense doesn’t match up well with quarterbacks like Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, or Ben Roethlisberger. Heck, even the New York Giants were able to hang 30 points against this Dallas defense. So what do they do?
As the NFL trade deadline nears, the Dallas Cowboys have a couple of options
The first is to try and make a trade for someone who helps them improve immediately. With how this season has gone their first, second, and even third-round picks surely hold immense value and would enable them to make a move if they can identify a player they believe can make the difference at the right price.
There is past precedent behind this as well. In 2018 the Cowboys were sitting at 3-4 as they went into the bye week and flipped a first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders for wide receiver Amari Cooper. The move gave the Cowboys the jolt they needed as they finished the season 10-6 and even won a playoff game.
Unlike 2018 though, the 2020 Cowboys don’t have one glaring hole, they have several. If you are trying to improve this team where do you even start? On offense, the current line is an absolute nightmare. Defensively, they have major problems upfront with their run defense while the secondary has struggled all year.
This leads us to the second option. Stand down at the trade deadline and see what they have in the younger players on the roster. With how poorly the Cowboys have looked this season, some fans might call this tanking and it’s hard to disagree.
The most famous recent example of tanking would be in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers and their “process”. However, professional football has seen its fair share of tanks too. Just under a decade ago the Indianapolis Colts famously went all-in on the “Suck for Luck” campaign. Even last year, fans of the Miami Dolphins wanted to “tank for Tua”.
Unlike in the NBA or NHL, the NFL draft doesn’t operate under a lottery system. This means that whoever finishes the season with the worst record is granted the number one overall pick in the draft as opposed to being entered into a lottery for the top choices.
This year that team will likely be the New York Jets who have yet to win a game. The Jets will almost certainly draft Clemson Tigers’ quarterback Trevor Lawrence (or trade the pick to a team who will), granted he decides to leave college.
A top-five pick could do wonders for Dallas going forward. Allowing a talented but injured team to address some critical flaws with potentially elite prospects they’d otherwise never be able to draft.
Every year whenever a team gets off to a sluggish start the tanking discussion inevitably begins. Often times it’s premature or even sarcastic, but halfway through the season and right before the trade deadline, the Dallas Cowboys need to evaluate themselves and make a decision. Though, they’ll have to answer one big question fist.
Is head coach Mike McCarthy the right person to lead a rebuild? If you subscribe to the theory that the Cowboys are actually a good team and they’ve just been dealt a bad hand through injuries and the lack of a traditional offseason, then you probably feel more comfortable with that prospect.
However, if you think the problems in Dallas are deeper than that, then one draft alone won’t fix this team, even if it helps bring in new talent.
Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones hates losing, and it’s hard to see him rolling with a team that openly embraces tanking. However, with how bad this team has played this year, leaving the roster untouched might be an unintentional tank. How that plays out remains to be seen. One thing is clear though, as they face the trade deadline the Dallas Cowboys are at a crossroads.