ESPN trade proposal for injured RB would send Cowboys fans into meltdown

Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals
Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals / Mike Christy/GettyImages

The NFL trade deadline is right around the corner. The Dallas Cowboys aren't typically a team that makes shockwave-inducing deals, but they are only a couple months removed from acquiring Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore via trade.

With those moves, the Cowboys made it clear they're more all-in this season than they have been in recent memory.

Of course, fans should temper expectations for the NFL trade deadline, which more often than not ends up disappointing. Folks were upset last season that Dallas didn't make a splash move at the deadline, but the trade for Johnathan Hankins was paramount to the defense's remedying its struggles against the run.

Speaking of the run, the Cowboys' rushing attack has been dreadful of late. That's more of a scheme and blocking issue than anything else, but ESPN writer Bill Barnwell believes Dallas backfields needs an injection of talent and power.

In a recent article (subscription required), Barnwell brainstormed 15 trade proposals for the 2023 deadline. One of them includes the Cowboys sending a 2025 conditional fifth-round pick to the Cardinals for running back James Conner.

James Conner trade proposal would create Cowboys nightmare

Cowboys fans are familiar with Conner, who rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown on 7.0 yards per carry in the Cardinals win over Dallas in Week 3. He's a physical back who'd add another dimension to the Cowboys backfield behind Tony Pollard, but there are myriad reasons why Dallas shouldn't touch this trade.

For starters, Conner is currently on injured reserve with a knee injury. In his seventh NFL season, Conner has yet to play a full schedule. With the Cardinals, Conner has missed seven games in three years and that number will grow depending on how long his stint on injured reserve is.

Conner has at least three more weeks on IR, so he'd return for Week 10 if all goes according to plan. That's seven games Dallas would trade him for. Is that worth it for (an injured) running back who's owed a fully guaranteed $7.75 million and accounts for a $9.445 million cap hit?

Barnwell notes Conner would help fix the Cowboys' red zone woes. Per Barnwell, Conner has converted 29 touches inside the five into 16 touchdowns. The league average for running backs during that span (2021-23) is around 40%. Conner has converted at a 55% clip.

Those are respectable numbers. However, if the Cowboys didn't sign one of the ample veteran free agent RBs in the offseason, why would they suddenly have incentive to part with a draft pick for one when they have multiple capable backs?

It's duly noted that Pollard is averaging a career-low 3.9 yards per carry, but nobody denies his explosion and talent. Meanwhile, Rico Dowdle has exceeded expectations as the secondary back and most would argue he needs more touches.

The Cowboys should trust that the running game will eventually figure itself out. Mike McCarthy getting more creative with the offense as a collective would move mountains, but trading for Conner -- or any other RB for that matter -- won't fix anything.

Enough with the Dallas RB speculation, please.

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