NFL analyst Bill Barnwell posited a trade in which Dallas surrenders a 2021 second-round pick and 2022 fourth-rounder for Denver Broncos franchise player Justin Simmons ahead of the Nov. 3 league deadline.
Two years ago, a struggling Cowboys team turned around its season by sending a first-round pick to the Raiders for Amari Cooper. The move was widely panned, but Dallas was right: The Cowboys were a much better team with Cooper on the field, they won the NFC East and they turned around what had been a struggling Dak Prescott.
Now, it’s a flailing defense that needs to be fixed. The Cowboys haven’t been interested in safety Earl Thomas, but what they need is someone who can be stout against the run and solid in coverage. Trading for Simmons would be a bold move, especially given that they just lost Prescott for the season, but Dallas has enough to win the NFC East with Andy Dalton behind center if it can get the secondary right. Team owner Jerry Jones and the front office also have shown an interest in trading for young stars they can sign to extensions, and Simmons would presumably be open to a significant extension on the sort of long-term deal the Cowboys favor.
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Why It’s a Good Idea
A 2016 third-round selection, Simmons is among the very best safeties in football, chosen as a second-team All-Pro in 2019 following a team-high four interceptions. He’s totaled 219 solo tackles, 30 pass breakups, 12 INTs, and a defensive touchdown across 52 career starts.
Simmons would immediately function as the top Cowboys defensive back if acquired. He’d likely replace ineffective veteran Darian Thompson — benched in Week 4 — opposite Xavier Woods, boosting a unit that’s notched only one INT through five games.
And with more than $24 million in available salary cap space, the Cowboys easily could absorb the 27-year-old’s (in November) $11.4 million franchise tender as well as his expected long-term contract.
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Why It’s a Bad Idea
First, and most obviously, it takes two to tango. Even if the Cowboys are legitimately interested, there’s no guarantee Simmons is moved in the next 17 days. He’s a foundational building block for defensive-minded Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, who doubles as their play-caller, and one of the few healthy assets remaining on an injury-ravaged club. Why trade him just to trade him?
Second, it wouldn’t be great from an optics perspective, Dallas parting with capital and eventually plunking down a significant contract while its injured cornerstone quarterback, Dak Prescott, is left wanting. Among other unrestricted free agents in 2021: team sack leader Aldon Smith and starting cornerbacks Jourdan Lews and Chidobe Awuzie.
Not that Jerry Jones cares much, but acquiring an out-of-house talent before taking care of his in-house guys would send a very curious — and potentially locker-room damaging — message.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL