Jerry Jones never met a marketing campaign he didn’t like, especially when it’s built around a player the masses can get behind. So it’s no wonder that the millisecond after Johnny Manziel declared for the NFL draft, speculation began about whether the Dallas Cowboys would bite that first-round bullet and trade up to draft the now former Aggie.
It sounds like a match made in heaven for Jones. Take the biggest megastar the college game has ever produced and slap a star on his helmet. Jones’ head must explode at the possibilities. As an added benefit, he doesn’t have to start Manziel right away, as Jones has committed a little coin to his veteran starter, Tony Romo, for the next several years.
Of course, if you know what the Cowboys face this offseason, you know that any talk of drafting Manziel is a fantasy at this point. The Cowboys will receive either the No. 16 or No. 17 pick, and Manziel looks like he’s no worse than a top 5 selection.
Take the biggest megastar the college game has ever produced and slap a star on his helmet. Jerry Jones’ head must explode at the possibilities.
The Cowboys are anywhere from $21 million to $23 million over the 2014 salary cap and must purge even more than that to sign rookies and free agents. Plus, there’s that sieve of a defense that could use two or three high-draft selections to fortify the defensive line.
That’s the reality and why it’s unlikely that Manziel will be a Cowboy. But what if Jones were absolutely hell-bent on bringing Manziel to Dallas, no matter the cost. What would it take?
Unlike the other three major sports, NFL trades are rarely player-for-player, and I can’t think of a team that would be willing to draft Manziel and then trade him to Dallas for a veteran. You see player-for-picks trades more often, but not often during the draft. Sure, New England flat out stole Randy Moss from New England for a fourth-round pick during the 2007 draft, but those sorts of deals are still the exception.
Usually deals for selections high enough for the Cowboys to draft Manziel happen early in the offseason and require multiple draft picks, sort of like the deal the Washington Redskins made to acquire the No. 2 overall pick from St. Louis for the right to draft Robert Griffin III. The Redskins gave up their No. 6 overall pick in 2012, their second-round pick in 2012 and their first-round picks in 2013 and 2014.
That’s a pretty steep price. Is that what Jones would have to fork over?
For help, we look to the NFL’s Draft Pick Value Chart, which most credit former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson with originating in the early 1990s. Since then it’s been tweaked, massaged, discredited and maligned. The idea was to assign a value to each draft selection to help determine whether to trade a pick. It’s not an official NFL tool, but it’s widely regarded as helpful.
So what does the chart say? Let’s say the Cowboys get that No. 16 overall pick. That’s worth 1,000 points. The general consensus right now is that Manziel will be no worse than the No. 4 overall pick. That pick is worth 1,800 points. That doesn’t seem like much of a gap, right?
Think again. Here are the point values for the Cowboys’ projected second-round (No. 48, 420 points), third-round (No. 80, 190 points) and fourth-round (No. 112, 70 points) picks. That’s a grand total of 1,680 points in rounds 1-4. The Cowboys are still 120 points short of 1,800.
Now, that’s just looking at a potential deal based strictly on the point system. Chances are the Cleveland Browns — the team that holds that No. 4 overall pick — will want something closer to what the Rams received from the Redskins for the right to draft Griffin. Duplicating that deal would require the Cowboys to give up their first-round picks for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons, along with their second-round pick in 2014.
And that’s why “mortgaging the future” is an apt turn of phrase when describing what it would take for Jones to nab Johnny Football.