The Cowboys have just lost DeMarcus Ware, the star of their defense for the past decade, should they trade up to snag his replacement?
First question is, how much would it cost the Cowboys to trade up to a top 5 pick?
Depending on what team and slot they trade up to, this could change. Any top 5 pick comes with a big cost though, and you have to see if the reward is worth the risk. Now the Cowboys' glaring need in this year's draft after Ware's departure is an impact player on the defensive line that can pressure the opposing QB snap after snap. There are about three players up top in this draft that would be worth a top 5 pick, but one of these player's draft stock is sliding. The three impact pass rushers the Cowboys could target up top is Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, and Anthony Barr. The teams up top probably see Mack and Clowney (with Barr being the guy who's stock is falling) as guys they could easily regret passing up if they traded their pick away, so they would have a hefty price on their picks. The Cowboys have quite a few late round picks to fall back on if they had to trade away some early picks in the draft. They could still hit a lot of needs if they had a hand a few over for a top 5 pick in the draft. I think the reward of a star DE for the next decade to replace the one that just left is more than worth it. Tony Romo needs a defense who can hold it down so he isn't losing 52-48 games like he was last fall. A game changer on the DLine would be a big start back in that direction.
Now the second question is what team would benefit from a trade back and would it be high enough to get our guy?
The Cowboys really need a QB and there are three up top for their picking so I don't see them trading back here. The Rams at #2 have lots of needs, 2 being WR and OT, both positions where the Rams could snag an impact player at #2 so I don't think they would bite either. The Jaguars, they might be a target to trade with. Yes, they need a QB, but what if they only end up liking one of the big 3, and the Texans snag that guy at #1. If the Texans did that, the Jaguars might be interested in accepting that trade on draft day. At #3 we would pick Clowney and have our DE of the future to take Ware's place and wreak havoc on QB's again for the next decade. Now some out there are wondering, will Clowney be motivated enough to perform at a high level in the NFL, is he worth the trouble of trading all these picks away to get a high pick for him? Is Mack an option here?
Khalil Mack would also fit well in our defense, but as an OLB, not a DE. Right now we have two OLB's who would both be backups if Mack was put on the depth chart at their spot. He would be a huge upgrade over Bruce Carter or Justin Durant. Carter is a great physical specimen, but his technique and ability to get to the ball just seriously disappeared in multiple games last season. Durant is just a veteran body, when you think of sabermetrics and a "replacement player"...yea he's that guy...the "replacement player". Mack would be huge behind Selvie who proved to be great for the Cowboys last season. The problem with drafting Mack over Clowney is, while OLB could use an upgrade, the 2nd DE spot is a bigger dropoff from Clowney than either OLB spot is from Mack. Right now Mincey is supposedly holding down the second DE spot, Clowney with Carter, Selvie and Durant would simply be better overall value than say Mincey, Selvie, Mack, and Durant/Carter. Mack's character is mainly the only thing he holds over the freak DE from South Carolina. I think Rod Marinelli would really be huge for Clowney though I think. He seemed to get the most out of the street bodies we were throwing out there at the end of the season. He also got tons out of Selvie who I bet barely any Cowboys fans knew before the season started, but were loving by seasons' end for being one of the few impact players on an abysmal overall defense. I think if we could trade the 16th pick, a second and 5th rounder, and maybe one our 6th rounders, it would be able to snag that pick, and still be able to draft a solid DT or S in that 3rd round like Ahmad Dixon or Will Sutton.
I just think that at pick #16, we won't be able to draft the necessary impact player to replace the difference this defense will feel with Ware's departure. When the Cowboys had a great defense 4-5 years back, Ware was the key, a nasty pass rusher is a key ingredient in every great defense there ever was. Whether you remember his name or not, he was the guy driving the QB crazy and making him make hurried throws resulting in key drops and picks for his secondary.
I think Clowney would be another huge name in Cowboys lore along with other older Cowboys defensive linemen such as Bob Lilly, Randy White, Jim Jeffcoat, and DeMarcus Ware. If we trade up I do not think at all the Cowboys would regret it. Put a star on the guy's helmet and watch him go to work.