Believe it or not, but the NFL season is already one tick away from being in late October, and that means the trade deadline of Oct. 29 is approaching with the speed of a starving shark when there’s chum in the water. The Dallas Cowboys could use help at a few positions, particularly with their recent round of injuries, but a trade requires giving up something to get something in return.
Should mid-to-late-round draft picks not be sufficient in a potential trade this season, with the aforementioned assumption the Cowboys won’t give up a top pick or mortgage the future two years in a row, they’ll have to wave a player or two in front of a possible suitor.
So who are the most likely candidates to be moved, should this be the case? Let’s take a look.
1. Anthony Brown – Cornerback
In a vacuum, Jourdan Lewis beats out Brown for the nod as starting nickel cornerback. Unfortunately for Lewis, he’s a smidge smaller (height + length) than Brown, and passing game coordinator Kris Richard has a type. Brown has had solid seasons in two of his past three, though, and that means he has value in a trade. Talented NFL corners don’t fall from the sky, and that also adds to his worth on the market. The Cowboys should entertain the thought of moving Brown and starting Lewis, followed by promoting Donovan Olumba from the practice squad to aid in cornerback depth.
Olumba isn’t fast, but he doesn’t have to be to play the slot, and he’s got the length Richard covets so dearly — making him a good rotational piece. As far as Lewis goes, outside of his added ability to play outside the hashes as needed, he has only one fewer interception (3) than Brown (4) in 23 fewer starts; and it’s key to note Brown is also a free agent in 2020 who’s looking for a bigger payday. That’s money that should go to helping retain Byron Jones, who is an absolute must-keep for Dallas.
2. Jeff Heath – Safety
Odd narratives aside, Heath is actually a quality safety at the NFL level and boasts the added value of being a special teams ace as well. He can start in a pinch, but he struggles when asked to do so continuously. One of the better playmakers and consummate professionals on the team in his time with the Cowboys, there are teams around the league who might be willing to give up something of value for what he brings to the table. He’s not perfect, but if placed in the right rotation, he’s an impact player, and one a safety-needy team could reach out to get information on.
It’s true the Cowboys aren’t exactly flush at the position right now, but rookie Donovan Wilson impressed mightily this preseason with almost a handful of interceptions — before going down with an injury that cost him the early part of the regular season. Now back on the active roster, a tandem of Wilson and Xavier Woods could be something to behold, and the team also has Darian Thompson for rotational duties.
They could also look to rookie Michael Jackson — who has the ability and length to flex to safety — and former Packers second-round pick Josh Jones on the practice squad, along with CJ Goodwin being on the active roster; and that means the Cowboys aren’t as starved at the position as you’d think — even in the absence of Kavon Frazier. Like Brown, Heath is a free agent in 2020, making the potential decision to trade for him now that much more plausible.
3. Jamize Olawale – Fullback
It’s time for the Cowboys to admit this relationship, for one reason or another, has not manifested in the way they had hoped when they sent a sixth-round pick to the Oakland Raiders for him in 2018. The most notable thing Olawale has done since has been a key drop that cost the Cowboys a touchdown in what became a shutout loss to the Indianapolis Colts last season, but they opted to double down on their commitment to him and re-sign him in 2019 to a perspectively-chunky three-year, $5.4 million deal. That led many to rightfully believe they’d utilize Olawale more in a Kellen Moore-steered offense, but the antithesis has occurred.
In two starts this season and six games active, he has no rushing attempts and no receptions with only one target. Olawale has talent as both a runner and receiver, as seen in Oakland, but something’s not marrying well with him and the Cowboys — even with a coordinator change.
There are teams that still value a quality fullback, and those are the ones the Cowboys should reach out to and do themselves and Olawale a favor. They’re having a difficult enough time right now getting rookie Tony Pollard in the mix offensively, so there’s no telling when or if Olawale will ever get another fair shake — with his value declining with every game they opt to “mannequin” him.
4. Dalton Schultz – Tight End
There’s no denying what Schultz did for Stanford, and that’s one reason the Cowboys spent a fourth-round pick on him in the 2018 NFL Draft. That being said, they also coaxed Jason Witten out of retirement this year for a reason as well. Schultz failed to blast off or make a meaningful impact at all in his rookie season, which isn’t exactly a death sentence, if we’re being honest. The problem was they needed him to do more in challenging Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin, with Rico Gathers mostly being an initial afterthought — but he ended up surpassing Schultz on the depth chart a time or two. That’s unnerving when considering just how much Gathers still had to learn at the position, but there was hope Year 2 would be better.
It’s not, though, because Witten is getting the bulk of the snaps and Jarwin has already shown he deserves some of Witten’s, as opposed to fewer for the sake of getting Schultz on the field more. With Witten being as durable as Alita: Battle Angel and Jarwin being a deep threat down the seams, Schultz fits only as a depth body right now to provide insurance against injury. For that, the team could simply look to Cole Hikutini on the practice squad, and send Schultz to a tight end-needy club for a shot at making a name for himself.
With Witten unlikely to retire in 2020 and Jarwin being an inexpensive — but worthy — resigning after this season, the future for Schultz doesn’t look great in Dallas. Get what you can for the second-year talent now, and use the added piece to reinforce other areas of need.
5. Cooper Rush – Quarterback
Depth a the QB position is key, but not if your QB is Dak Prescott, who has proven himself a tank when it comes to durability. Rush beat out the lowly efforts of Mike White these past two seasons, leading to White’s release, but Rush didn’t exactly blow the upstart out of the water. If anything, he barely edged him out, but he did show enough flashes — specifically in his rookie preseason — to warrant one of at least a handful of teams being curious about his potential. There are plenty of teams looking for a quality backup quarterback, and Rush might very well be that, but are the Cowboys willing to keep him around and re-sign him in 2020 to a bigger money deal?
Likely not, and that’s why it would behoove them to move him now — if they can. The subsequent plan would be as simple as signing a veteran for the remainder of 2019 for just-in-case, and then drafting another quarterback in 2020, much like they did White in 2018 with the hopes of him challenging Rush for the backup quarterback position. This is certainly something to think about, because if the plan is to draft another one anyway in the middle rounds, then see what you can get for Rush before Oct. 29.