There’s been a lot of talk recently about two of the worst trades in Cowboys history. Whether or not sending two first-round picks to Seattle for Joey Galloway, who tore his ACL in his first game and was the marker for the end of the dynasty, or multiple picks to Detroit for WR Roy Williams was worse, they both rank highly on the list of mistakes by Jerry Jones’ front office.
The Williams trade was followed by a big deal and wasted resources early in Tony Romo’s career. The Galloway trade left Dallas without a first rounder after Aikman retired in a draft where Drew Brees went at the top of the second round. Still other bad trades have happened like jumping up to acquire CB Mo Claiborne. But what about the quality trades that Jones has engineered? Those deserve some spotlight as well.
2014: Trading up for DeMarcus Lawrence
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Draft weekend started with the tantalizing possibility that Pittsburgh’ Aaron Donald would fall to the Cowboys, but he was snatched up at No. 13 by the Rams organization. The solace? Getting the best OL of his generation, Zack Martin at No. 16. Dallas went to bed that night happy, then woke up and got to work. Not satisfied with leaving the draft without a QB Hunter, the club moved up early on Day 2, trading with division rival Washington to acquire Boise State’s Lawrence. Washington used the second and third-round picks to select DE Trent Murphy and OL Spencer Long. Lawrence grew into an already two-time Pro Bowler and earned the richest defensive contract in Cowboys history. The only players of note taken after the spot Dallas evacuated (No. 47) were all wide receivers (Davante Adams, Allan Robinson, Jarvis Landry) who are all superb, but probably not on the radar of the Cowboys who had a prime Dez Bryant at the time.
2010: Moving up in the draft to select WR Dez Bryant
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Of course getting Bryant required a trade, too. A savvy move, Dallas sat at No. 27 in the 2010 draft, but saw the Oklahoma State product sitting there on the board. With the perennially WR-thirsty Baltimore Ravens sitting at No. 25, Bryant had an almost assured landing spot. Jones and company called up Bill Belichick and crew in New England and engineered a trade up to No. 24, jumping the Ravens who promptly bailed on their spot. All Bryant did was become the franchise’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions with 73.What makes it even sweeter is the No. 24 pick was originally Philadelphia’s, but they moved up to select DE Brandon Graham, who took a long time before becoming a key player.
2018: Trading for WR Amari Cooper
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Someone in the Cowboys’ front office should probably be fired for thinking that a WR corps of Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns and Tavon Austin was going to allow their offense to thrive. In reality, having such a lack of weaponry handcuffed and almost submarined the career of QB Dak Prescott, who went into an inaccuracy shell that could’ve led to a different future than the one that just earned the richest contract in club history. That’s courtesy of having Cooper to throw to, who immediately earned his cost and proved even better than he was with the Raiders organization. In 2.5 seasons with Dallas and Prescott, he has two Pro Bowls, 224 receptions and 19 scores. In 3.5 years with Oakland he had 225 receptions and 19 scores. The Cowboys got a lot better, getting hot down the stretch and dropping the pick to No. 27. Two of the three WRs taken after No. 27 make an interesting counterpoint that likely will keep this from ranking higher even if Cooper is a part of a Super Bowl champion. Dallas wouldn’t have thrived with N’Keal Harry (32 to New England), but if they had either Deebo Samuel (36 to San Francisco) or more importantly A.J. Brown (51 to Tennessee) on a rookie contract? Interesting, though the 2018 playoff run never happens.
1990: Moving up to take RB Emmitt Smith
It’s not often discussed, likely because it was a small move and during a time in team history when there were much bigger blockbuster trades, but no acquisition had the impact on the organization the way this Hall of Famer did. The closer, Dallas cemented away virtually every halftime lead on the back of Smith, the NFL record holder for rushing yards. Dallas moved up from No. 21 to No. 17 to take the Florida Gator in a trade with the Steelers. Between those two picks, two other RBs were taken. That pretty much cements Smith wouldn’t have been there had the Cowboys stayed put and they could’ve ended up with either Darrell Thompson or Steve Broussard. Rodney Hampton went No. 24 to the Giants, so he would’ve been a better consolation prize, especially behind Dallas’ line, but he’s no Smith whose longevity matched his tenacity and ability. 13 seasons, 17,162 rushing yards and 175 touchdowns (with another 3,000-plus and 11 scores through the air). 3x champion, Super Bowl and regular season MVPs. Have mercy.
1989: Trading away Herschel Walker
(AP Photo/Ron Heflin)
Duh. The Cowboys sent Walker along with their third and tenth round choice in 1990 (along with San Diego’s fifth rounder) and a third round choice in 1991 to Minnesota. The haul back?
Linebackers Jesse Solomon and David Howard
Cornerback Issiac Holt
Defensive end Alex Stewart
Minnesota’s first, second, and sixth round pick in 1990
Minnesota’s first and second round pick in 1991
Minnesota’s first, second and third round draft pick in 1992.
The trade eventually involved 18 players. Dallas got integral DBs Kevin Smith and Darren Woodson, as well as the ammo (1990 first rounder) to help acquire a certain Hall of Fame player mentioned earlier (Smith) along with several key depth players.
1992: Trading for DE Charles Haley
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Strangely enough, many Cowboys fans misremember Haley joining the team as a free agency move, but it was indeed a trade with the equally potent San Francisco 49ers that brought the menace to Dallas. Dallas gave up a 1993 second-round pick and a 1994 fourth rounder for the dominant player. Thank goodness that Haley tested Jerry Rice in the 49ers locker room, the one untouchable in that organization. The already three-time Pro Bowler came into Dallas and gave Jimmy Johnson the terror he needed, playing a pivotal role in the three championships Dallas immediately earned. As Dallas won the next two championships, the picks were at the end of each round. 2.56 was traded away by SF to the Raiders. They then sent this pick to the Chargers for their 2014 first round pick which was then used to move up to select DT Bryant Young. 3.99 (1994) was also shipped off in a move up for WR Cory Fleming. While Haley’s stats aren’t earth-shattering, fans should remember the defensive rotation Dallas employed during their championship seasons. More so, they should know that Haley’s attitude was a key catalyst for a league-leading defense every bit as good as its offensive counterpart.