News broke yesterday that Cowboys offensive guard Ronald Leary, stuck in a backup role in Dallas, has requested a trade. In Tennessee, starting offensive lineman Byron Bell was lost for the season to a severe ankle injury. The two events have naturally brought the Cowboys and Titans into the same conversation.
We have no idea if the Titans have any interest in Leary. Not only does he have the well-known degenerative issue in his knees but he may be viewed as a system product. Other teams may feel that Leary benefited from playing between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick and wouldn’t be the same player for them. There is plenty of logic behind that opinion.
However, necessity is the mother of invention. The Titans spent a first-round pick on Jack Conklin because they need offensive lineman. Losing Bell, who started all 16 games last year, is a big blow. With no dominant team in the AFC South right now the Titans have to be thinking about staying competitive. They could be motivated to make a deal.
If Dallas and Tennessee get into trade talks, what are some possible deals they might consider? Let’s hypothesize.
Dallas gave Leary the second-round Restricted Free Agent tender earlier this year, meaning another would’ve had to surrender their second-round pick if they signed Leary to a contract. Dallas would likely try to start there in any negotiation.
The Titans would likely counter that no team thought Leary was worth that high of a pick and try and get Dallas to back down. A third-round pick is far more easy to surrender for the Titans but still a very nice get for the Cowboys for a former undrafted free agent. That could be the sweet spot.
Defensive End Help
I’ve already seen some proposing that Dallas request pass rusher Brian Orakpo from the Titans. That won’t happen, folks. Orakpo has three years left on a $31 million contract. Dallas isn’t paying that for a guy who’d have to convert from a 3-4 outside linebacker to a defensive end and who turns 30 in July.
A guy who makes way more sense is veteran Karl Klug. He reminds me of Jeremy Mincey as a versatile player able to play the strongside end or some inside tackle. He’s 28-year-old and has an expiring contract with a $2.25 million cap hit in 2016, about the same as Leary’s one-year deal. That’s about as even a trade as you could ask for.
Now, if Dallas really wanted to swing for the fences they could try and grab rookie Kevin Dodd. Tennessee used their second-round pick on the defensive end, just one pick before Dallas took linebacker Jaylon Smith. The Cowboys would likely have to give up a mid-round pick to pry Dodd away, but it’s definitely worth an attempt.
Wide Receiver Help
The Titans top three receivers appear to be set with free agent addition Rishard Matthews, second-year prospect Dorial Green-Beckham, and veteran Kendall Wright. The odd man out is 25-year-old Justin Hunter, who could be an interesting addition to the Cowboys receiver corps.
Like Terrance Williams and Brice Butler, Hunter is entering the final year of his rookie deal. He was in their same 2013 draft class and was taken higher than either in the second round. At 6’4″ and with 4.4 speed, Hunter has always been an intriguing physical prospect but has had consistency issues on the field.
It’s worth nothing that Hunter is recovering from an ankle injury that ended his season last November. He has been limited in offseason workouts but was reportedly on pace to return for mini-camps and be fully ready for 2016.
A very interesting wrinkle here is that Cowboys wide receiver coach Derek Dooley was Hunter’s head coach for all three of his season at the University of Tennessee. That could certainly push Hunter into the conversation for Dallas, but only if they feel he has a legitimate shot at beating out Williams or Butler for a starting job.
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There are certainly other Titans players and 30 other NFL teams we could talk trade possibilities about. Please comment below with your own ideas and thoughts about the proposals I’ve made.