The NFL trade deadline has become a real “event” in recent years, which is fantastic for the league.
Cowboys fans were on pins and needles all morning and afternoon as the end of the trading period approached, and the team was making a legitimate run at NY Jets safety Jamal Adams. Ultimately, the Jets’ asking price, rumored to be as much as two 1st round selections, and an additional “significant pick” was simply too high, and kudos to the Cowboys for standing their ground.
In the spirit of giving credit where it is due, Adams is an excellent player. At 6’1″/215 lbs., Adams is an imposing physical force as a downhill player and is no slouch in coverage. In 2018 Adams solidified his reputation as a disruptive force, tallying 115 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and an interception. Adams is a chaos-causing player, something the Cowboys secondary has been devoid of for quite some time. The Cowboys got an up-close and personal demonstration of Adams’ talents in Week 6 when he was busy wrecking Cowboy offensive game plans.
The only drawback to Adams’ game is that he is, for the most part, a traditional strong safety, a position the Cowboys have not held in high regard under the current regime. Adams is a box player, but a special one. The type of special player that makes himself valuable despite playing a position of less importance, hence the Cowboys serious negotiations with the Jets.
At the end of the day, the Jets’ asking price was unreasonable, as it was for other players they tried and failed to move before the deadline.
The trading period closed with the Jets receiving “thank you but no thank you” from teams regarding running back LeVeon Bell, and wideout Robby Anderson as well.
Two 1sts, and let’s say “significant pick” means an additional 2nd. Look at the Cowboys’ recent history. Would you do it for Taco Charlton (2017 1st), Leighton Vander Esch (2018 1st), and Connor Williams (2018 2nd)? Maybe. But would you do it for Byron Jones (2015 1st), Ezekiel Elliott (2016 1st), and Jaylon Smith (2016 2nd)? How about Travis Frederick (2013 1st), Zack Martin (2014 1st), and DeMarcus Lawrence (2014 2nd)? Fans have to trust this front to make draft picks. Will McClay and company have been consistently smacking 1st round picks out of the park for a decade (Taco Charlton notwithstanding). Taking the bat out of their hands in the 1st round for potentially as many as three seasons in a row (Cooper trade 2018) is non-sensical.
Once Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper are secured, the Cowboys will be pretty much at capacity with big-ticket items. Low-cost rookie contracts will be instrumental in building out the rest of the roster. Jamal Adams is indeed still on his rookie deal but is halfway into year three. First-round picks like Adams (6th overall, 2017) can begin negotiations after their third season.
Cowboys fans should know a little something about this, because that’s exactly how far along running back Ezekiel Elliott was into his rookie contract when he initiated a holdout that lasted up until four days before Week 1 kickoff. Could you imagine trading an embarrassment of riches for Adams, getting 9 games of service in 2019, and be going through a holdout in 2020 training camp? Yikes.
Even if Adams honors his entire rookie deal, that would have given the Cowboys control of the player for 2.5 years. If the team kept and made selections with those three draft picks, it would control both 1st round players for five years each, and the 2nd round player for four. If the overall value of the three players is even close to that of Adams, having three players on under 14 seasons of team control beats one player at 2.5.
Cowboys fans are understandably tired of watching Jeff Heath react late to footballs in flight and take bad angles to ball carriers. However, teams cannot allow their own roster to determine the worth of a player on another. That’s a recipe for the overpayment. Jamal Adams cannot be worth more to the Cowboys than he is to other teams because of the Cowboys’ lack of talent at the safety position. He is either worth three premium draft selections or he isn’t.
Refusing to spend draft capital at safety, then overpaying for one to fill the hole just compounds a problem. If the Cowboys had taken Virginia safety Juan Thornhill at the same spot they took Trysten Hill in last year’s 2nd round, nobody in Dallas would be talking about Jamal Adams. Adversely, he can’t be worth mortgaging the future because they didn’t.
Here is an easy barometer for Cowboys fans to use for pick-for-player trades. Last season the Cowboys acquired WR Amari Cooper from the Raiders midyear for a 1st round pick. No additional selections, just the 1st. Amari Cooper changed the fortunes of the season, the quarterback, and possibly the head coach. Now try to quantify the impact a player would have to create to be more impactful than Cooper. No matter how special he maybe, you aren’t getting that level of impact from a box safety. You just aren’t.
As fans, it is tempting to want to load the boat and push the chips into the middle of the table for a Super Bowl run now, but this team has a very bright future to consider. Getting into the business of trading 3 future players for 1 will leave you with a roster full of holes in no time.
It was encouraging to see the Cowboys take interest in finally addressing the safety position. Hopefully, we are now a step closer to seeing them spend something more significant than a Day 3 pick to draft their own safety sometime soon.