Cowboys Nearly Pulled Off NFC Draft-Day Trade Involving QB: Report

Jerry Jones

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Before they executed a surprising first-round deal with the bitter-rival Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys were propositioned about moving down to acquire the No. 20 overall pick in last month’s 2021 NFL Draft.

The Chicago Bears, who originally held the pick, wanted desperately to come up for quarterback Justin Fields. But the Cowboys factored in the point of diminishing returns, unwilling to miss out on blue-chip talent within the top-15.

Dallas declined the overtures, instead dropping from No. 10 to No. 12 to nab linebacker Micah Parsons. Chicago, meanwhile, found a trade partner in the New York Giants, jumping to No. 11 for Fields.

Details of the frenzied, NFC East-involved negotiations surfaced Monday in a new column by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, who reports the Bears are “ecstatic” to land Fields how they did:

And that’s because a lot of his fall was circumstantial,” Breer wrote. “Before the draft, I had a handful of teams that either weren’t going to be in position to take Fields, or didn’t have a need at quarterback, who had the Ohio State quarterback as the second guy in the class. Then, if you look at the Panthers’ and Broncos’ decisions coming down to their respective top defensive players in the class vs. Fields (which I think is where both those teams were), and you look at the Bengals’ wanting to add one of the draft’s very elite (precluding a trade down), Miami’s having already moved up to No. 6 and Sewell’s falling into the Lions’ laps, you’ll see how the slide from No. 5 to No. 9 happened.

From there, Dallas wasn’t going to trade back further than a few spots, because of the dropoff in talent in the class in the mid-teens, and that brings you to the Giants at No. 11, the spot the Bears (who’d talked to Dallas) wound up trading into. So add it up and you had six teams that either weren’t taking a quarterback, or would’ve picked Fields if they had, that didn’t want to move down. Good fortune for Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, and now we’ll see how it plays out.”

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Giants Infuriated by Dallas-Philly Swap

One of the more amusing storylines to emerge from the Draft was the New York Giants’ apoplectic reaction to the aforementioned trade between divisional enemies — a trade that directly and negatively impacted Big Blue, according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.

“Coaches expected the SEC’s top three receiver prospects — Waddle, teammate DeVonta Smith and Chase — to go in the top 10,” Rittenberg explained. “An SEC assistant said the Miami Dolphins would take Waddle or Smith, if available, and an SEC head coach said Philadelphia ‘got a steal in DeVonta,’ likening the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner to former Eagles star DeSean Jackson. An SEC defensive coordinator added, ‘The Giants wanted DeVonta bad. They were pretty livid when Philly moved in front of them.’”

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‘Biggest’ Remaining ‘Flaw’

Despite allocating six consecutive 2021 picks on defense — the first such sequence in modern draft history — Dallas’s “biggest flaw” remains its secondary, and specifically its safety corps, according to Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay.

After losing Xavier Woods in free agency, the Cowboys came to terms with Keanu Neal to help fill the void. They also signaled their intent to convert sixth-round pick Israel Mukuamu to safety, but their only other offseason acquisition at the position was Damontae Kazee. Both Mukuamu and Kazee are likely to be depth options at best.

Dallas needs to find at least one more veteran safety to feel comfortable about its secondary in 2021. Malik Hooker is the type of playmaker whom the Cowboys need right now, as he would play a big role if he can stay healthy.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL