Trade for Roy Williams looking like a colossal mistake for Cowboys

LVCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2009

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 19: Roy Williams #11 of the Dallas Cowboys watches his team loose to the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on October 19, 2008 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Rams beat the Cowboys 34-14.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

In baseball, everyone remembers bad trades like the 1990 deal where the Boston Red Sox traded future star Jeff Bagwell to the Houston Astros for aging setup man Larry Anderson. 

But the NFL has also seen its fair share of one-sided trades throughout the league’s 90-year existence. 

To name a few doozys that some fans will want to remember and some forget:

Cowboys trading running back Herschel Walker (along with one other player and picks) to the Vikings for four players and eight picks, including three first-rounders that led directly to Dallas winning three Super Bowls.

Colts trading future Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk to the St. Louis Rams for second- and fifth-round picks in the 1999 draft.

The Redskins trading underachieving defensive tackle Sean Gilbert to the Carolina Panthers for first round picks in 1999 and 2000.

But after the one-year anniversary and almost half of the 2009 season being completed, I am ready to add the infamous 2008 trade deadline deal that sent receiver Roy Williams from Detroit to Dallas to the “One-Sided NFL Trades” list.

The trade gave the Cowboys Williams (along with a seventh-round pick) while the Lions picked up a first-, a third- and a sixth-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.  

At the time of the trade in October 2008, a lot of fans and media thought that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had swung a great deal for a possible No. 1 receiver and purchased some “T.O Insurance.”  But as the weeks on the NFL calendar pass, this trade is looking more like a colossal mistake by Dallas. 

Throughout the 2008 season, the Cowboys were growing tired of inconsistent, aging receiver and locker-room pariah Terrell Owens. So Williams looked like the perfect motivational tool and possible replacement wrapped up in a 6-foot-3, 215-pound package.  

The Cowboys beat out their NFC East division rival Philadelphia Eagles in the race to grab Williams and Jones even handed the perceived superstar a brand-new, five-year contract extension worth $45 million, including more than $20 million guaranteed. 

On his trade to Dallas, Williams, a Texas high school and college star, said, “I’m more happy to be a Dallas Cowboy than when I got my first bike.”  He added with a huge smile, “Going from 0-5 to 4-2, you can’t ask for anything better than that”.

It seemed like a great plan by the Cowboys to slowly acclimate Williams to their playbook and quarterback Tony Romo for the remainder of the 2008 season, then unleash him as their featured receiver in 2009, once Owens was jettisoned.  

But the 27-year-old former Texas Longhorn has proven to be an even bigger pain in the rear than Owens (averaged 78 catches, 1,196 yards and 13 touchdowns in three years with Dallas), because he has not produced on the field. 

Of course everyone tacked Williams’ pedestrian 2008 numbers (19 catches for 198 yards and one touchdown in 10 games and seven starts) and his being a non-factor while the Cowboys narrowly missed the playoffs to a steep learning curve. 

But after spending over a year with the Cowboys, including mini-camps, OTAs, training camp and practices, Williams looks worse than ever. 

He looks tentative in traffic, has dropped too many passes (just 12 catches on 30 targets — 40 percent catch-rate), looks uninterested at times and clearly has lost the confidence of a few of his teammates, namely Romo. 

Through six games, Williams has 12 catches for 230 yards and one touchdown, which is nowhere near a featured receiver’s production. 

In his defense, Williams has not been the same since being “blasted” over the middle (ribs) in the Cowboys 17-10 loss to Denver in Week 4.  But the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league and, surprisingly, for the Cowboys it has been formerly little known small-school receiver Miles Austin that has risen to the occasion of replacing T.O., not big-ticket receiver Williams (career numbers: 262 catches for 3,884 yards and 29 touchdowns over six years).

Austin has been one of the season’s best stories, rising from tiny Monmouth (NJ) College to make the NFL as a special teamer before finally getting his shot this season. 

The tall (6-foot-3) and fast (4.4 40-yard dash) receiver burst on the scene in a Week 6 win over the Chiefs, producing 10 catches for a franchise-record 250 yards and two touchdowns (both 50-yard-plus bombs). 

Austin saved the Cowboys’ hides with a 60-yard, tackle-breaking touchdown reception in overtime and became the 10th player in NFL history to record at least 10 catches, 250 yards and two touchdowns in a game. 

Austin then proved the Chiefs’ game was no fluke as he looked like the second coming of Cowboys Hall of Famer Michael Irvin in a Week 7 win over the Atlanta Falcons (best six catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns). 

Out of nowhere, Austin and his eye-popping numbers (21 catches for 502 yards, 23.9 yards-per-reception average and five touchdown) have moved former starter Patrick Crayton to the bench.  And almost everyone watching the Cowboys would agree that Austin, not Williams, is Romo’s No. 1 passing option.  (Heck, many would argue that Williams is behind tight ends Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett at this point.)

Hopefully, for the Cowboys’ sake, Williams is just having a tough time learning to be the go-to guy on a team that expects to win. 

But for now, this one-time Pro Bowl player (82 catches for 1,310 yards and seven touchdowns in 2006 for Detroit) is looking like he will never achieve that status again or be an impact player. 

This season, Williams’ production has slipped to averaging 2.4 receptions and 46 yards per game, which is astronomically down from his career highs of 5.6 and 81.9 in 2006.  

If Williams doesn’t turn it around soon, he will join former Cowboys trade flameout Joey Galloway in the Cowboys annals as another receiver that Jerry Jones traded for with high expectations, but got little in return.


Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Posted in NFL Trades Tagged: Bad NFL Trades, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Football, Jerry Jones, Miles Austin, NFL, NFL Trades, Roy Williams, Sports

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