The NFL’s trade deadline was a rather lackluster spectacle this season. Few players were moved, and only one blockbuster trade actually ended up being finalized (Von Miller to the Los Angeles Rams). However, that doesn’t mean teams weren’t involved in talks down to the wire. In fact, the Dallas Cowboys were one of the teams who aggressively looked into adding talent at this year’s deadline.
They obviously failed to do so, but Jerry Jones got close to greenlighting a franchise-altering trade. In hindsight, one can reasonably argue the Cowboys should’ve been more aggressive at the deadline.
The Cowboys’ defense is borderline elite
The Cowboys’ defense has been an area of concern in Dallas for a few years now. Despite the acquisition of offensive superstars Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper, the team’s lackluster defensive group has always held them back.
That’s what’s making the 2021 Cowboys such a surprisingly good team. Their offense is rock solid again with Prescott back in the lineup. However, it’s their defense that’s been most impressive. They rank sixth-best in the NFL in expected points contributed by the defense heading into Week 9, up 16 spots from last year.
The acquisition of rookie linebacker Micah Parsons is the biggest reason the defense made such a swift turnaround. The breakout of cornerback Trevon Diggs and the addition of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are also helping.
The Cowboys are playing with a hobbled defensive line
What makes things even more surprising when talking about the Dallas defense is that DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys’ top pass-rusher, has been out since mid-September with a broken foot.
Lawrence is a sack machine who’s been one of the Cowboys’ best defensive players since he was drafted. The consensus was that Dallas’ defense would crumble without his presence this season.
The defense emerging into a top-10 unit has been a surprising pleasantry for Cowboys fans this year. However, their lack of a DE1 put them in a prime position to trade for one at this year’s deadline.
Dallas wanted Von Miller
With Dallas’ need for defensive line help in mind, and a 6-1 start causing Jerry Jones to feel aggressive, the Cowboys were reportedly in the mix for the before-mentioned Von Miller.
According to NFL insider Jason La Canfora, the Cowboys “were also inquiring about Miller…their interest in landing the future Hall of Famer was real.”
However, they ultimately “lacked the degree of aggression the Rams ultimately displayed.”
The Rams did pay an astronomically large price for a 32-year-old lineman for what it’s worth. A second and third-round pick for Miller is a hefty package. However, it’s worth questioning how much NFL teams should value draft picks in the first place when a Super Bowl run is in sight. Miller would have helped Dallas more in 2021 than future draft picks.
In the same breath, the Cowboys primarily rebuilt their struggling defense through the draft. Trevon Diggs, for example, was a second-round pick.
Regardless, it’s an interesting hypothetical to consider. Miller going to Dallas instead of LA would’ve changed a lot about how people view the NFC.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.