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August 27, 2023

A look at the Cowboys' and Giants' recent trades with the 49ers and Cardinals

A deeper look at some recent trades by two Eagles rivals...

Eagles NFL
082623TreyLance Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Trey Lance

Over the last few days, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants traded for players who were once top 10 picks in the NFL draft. So, you know, let's take a look at both trades.


The Cowboys traded a fourth-round pick in 2024 to the 49ers for QB Trey Lance

This trade involved the Eagles' biggest rival in the Cowboys as well as their biggest current non-NFC East rival in the 49ers.

The Niners originally held the No. 12 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but they traded up to pick No. 3 with the Dolphins to select Lance. The cost:

 Niners gotDolphins got 
No. 3 overall pick in 2021 (Lance) No. 12 overall pick in 2021 
 First-round pick in 2022 
 Third-round pick in 2022 
 First-round pick in 2023 

Here were the top 12 picks in that draft (players who have been to a Pro Bowl bolded in green):

Draft slot Team Player 
Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence 
Jets QB Zach Wilson 
49ers QB Trey Lance 
Falcons TE Kyle Pitts 
Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase 
Dolphins WR Jaylen Waddle 
Lions OT Penei Sewell 
Panthers CB Jaycee Horn 
Broncos CB Patrick Surtain 
10 Eagles WR DeVonta Smith 
11 Bears QB Justin Fields 
12 Cowboys LB Micah Parsons 

Lance played sparingly as a rookie as a backup to Jimmy Garoppolo, but began the 2022 season as the starting quarterback. In Week 2, he dislocated his ankle, ending his season. Following training camp in 2023, Lance found himself third on the depth chart behind the literal last pick of the 2022 draft in Brock Purdy, and another former third overall bust in Sam Darnold.

The Niners put a for sale sign on Lance's services, and the best offer they received in return was the fourth-round pick from the Cowboys.

This trade cements Lance as one of the worst draft picks ever, given the cost to acquire him vs. the number of games he actually appeared in.

Whiffing on first-round picks is nothing new for John Lynch, by the way. Here's the Niners' first-round draft history since Lynch became their GM in 2017:

Year Draft slot Player Still with team? 
2017 Solomon Thomas No 
2017 31 Reuben Foster No 
2018 Mike McGlinchey No 
2019 Nick Bosa Yes 
2020 14 Javon Kinlaw Yes 
2020 25 Brandon Aiyuk Yes 
2021 Trey Lance No 
2022  NO PICK  
2023  NO PICK  

Lynch is batting 0.333 on top 3 picks.

The pain of the Lance pick will still be felt for a while on the 49ers' financials, as he'll count for $8.4 million in dead money in 2023 and $5.5 million in 2024:

For all their troubles, all the Niners got in return for Lance was a measly fourth-round pick, and they were evidently surprised to even get that.

In summary, LOL 49ers.

From the "Was this a good deal for the Cowboys?" perspective, Lance should be an immediate upgrade over current backup Cooper Rush, who went 4-1 as a starter last season but if you watched him play you could pretty easily see that he wasn't good. The cost of a fourth-round pick isn't that crazy, and Lance will be cheap, as he'll count for $940,000 on the Cowboys' cap in 2023 and $5,310,717 in 2024. Those are very reasonable numbers for a backup that has the physical traits that Lance possesses. Of course, the Niners must really think Lance stinks to trade him to a team they have faced in the playoffs each of the last two seasons.

Still, perhaps Lance can flourish in a less complicated offense. In San Francisco, Kyle Shanahan is often praised for his "genius" scheme. Of course, that scheme is difficult to learn and doesn't fit the skill sets of some quarterbacks, much less one that had just 318 career pass attempts in college and 102 in the pros. So maybe it's just not the genius scheme everyone says it is?

There will be questions as to what this move means for Dak Prescott. My take: Not much. He's the starter, and he's under pressure to perform after leading the NFL in INTs a season ago. If he doesn't play well in 2023, his future as the Cowboys' quarterback will be in question, whether the Cowboys traded for Lance or not.


The Giants traded a seventh-round pick in 2024 to the Cardinals for LB Isaiah Simmons

Simmons was selected eighth overall by the Cardinals in the 2020 draft, mainly because of his blend of size and elite athleticism.

However, Simmons was not instinctive, and struggled both in run support and in coverage. He was occasionally effective as a blitzer, and had four sacks in 2022, shown here: 

With the Giants, the blitz-happy Wink Martindale will theoretically have a chance to put Simmons in a better position to succeed than the Cardinals did, and certainly the cost of a seventh-round pick is a pittance.

One notion that I will quibble with a bit is that it is considered a "low risk, high reward" move. If this were a move made prior to camp, then yes, I would agree. The Giants would have plenty of time to get a look at him, determine if he is worth a role in their defense, and what exactly that role would be. However, with this trade occurring right up against the start of the season, the Giants won't have a lot of time to get a player lacking awareness traits up to speed. And he's likely to play. The risk isn't what it cost to get him. The risk is in playing an unready player and having him cost you a game.

Overall though, this does feel like a low-cost move that the Giants can feel pretty good about.

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