3 Cowboys Trade Targets After Week 2
The team sits at 1-1 in a division where every team has at least one loss already. Dak Prescott is back and healthy enough to make the offense one of the most prolific in the NFL, and the revamped defense under Dan Quinn has shown signs of improvement from last season's disaster.
The bottom line is that this team is good enough to win the NFC East as long as it plays to its potential. With an epic offense and even average defense they will win the division.
But if they want to elevate the ceiling of the team, there may still have to be some additions to the roster. The Cowboys showed in Week 1 that they could be a piece or two away from beating a team like the Buccaneers, who they could meet again in the postseason.
With that in mind, here are three players they could be targeting once we get closer to the trade deadline if they want to strengthen their roster.
DT Vernon Butler
The Cowboys have already met two pass-heavy teams in the Bucs and Chargers. Both teams ran for less than 100 yards, but that was more a result of them not trying.
The cracks started to show in the run defense against Austin Ekeler and the Chargers. After holding Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II to under four yards per carry, the Cowboys surrendered 5.0 yards per carry.
It wasn't a big deal because the Chargers were putting the ball in Justin Herbert's hands a lot, but that won't always be the case. With Neville Gallimore and Trysten Hill out of the lineup, the Cowboys are still thin at defensive tackle.
Osa Odighizuwa has played well—he's second on the team in pressures and has earned a PFF grade that has him ranked 34th out of 112 interior defenders. Conversely, Carlos Watkins, who starts alongside Odighizuwa, is the 105th ranked defensive lineman.
Odighizuwa is a good athletic tackle capable of playing the three-technique. What they need is a run-stuffer who can play the one-technique.
The Buffalo Bills' Vernon Butler could help with that. At 6'4" 330 pounds, he has the size and strength to eat up blocks in the middle and keep the linebackers clean. He's also become lost in the shuffle of a deep defensive tackle rotation in Buffalo.
The Bills have five tackles who have played at least 15 percent of the snaps this season.
Edge Clelin Ferrell
DeMarcus Lawrence has long been one of the most underappreciated edge defenders in the league. All you have to do to understand that is look at the pressure the Cowboys have generated without their star defensive end.
The Lawrenceless defensive front has only registered two sacks in two games—one from linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and another from rookie Micah Parsons, who has been moonlighting as a defensive end because he's the best pass-rusher on the roster right now.
Parsons was successful coming off the edge. He generated eight pressures, which is the most by a rookie since Nick Bosa in 2019, per PFF.
Moving Parsons up front is a necessary evil right now, but it doesn't explain the lack of production from their other defensive ends, including Dorance Armstrong, Tarell Basham and Bradlee Anae.
Targeting Clelin Ferrell of the Raiders would bring another young player with upside to round out the defensive end rotation. Ferrell was the Raiders' fourth overall selection in the 2019 draft but was a healthy scratch in Week 1 and logged just 12 snaps in the team's Week 2 win over the Steelers.
Ferrell only notched two sacks in 2020, but he was second on the team in pressures with 21. The former top-five draft pick might not have lived up to that potential, but he could be a boost for a pass-rush that needs it with a change of scenery.
CB Stephon Gilmore
This is the kind of bold trade that could move the needle for the Cowboys.
Stephon Gilmore remains one of the top cornerbacks in the league, and the Cowboys are still in search of a cornerback to play opposite Trevon Diggs.
Against the Buccaneers, Diggs was able to shadow Mike Evans and mostly neutralize him. But the Bucs were simply able to target other receivers and Tom Brady had a field day. Against the Chargers, Diggs was up-and-down (as a second-year corner is wont to do), and both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams had big days.
Gilmore was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 and followed it up by only allowing a passer rating of 75.7 when targeted last season.
The financial side of swinging a trade would be difficult. After signing Dak Prescott to his extension, money is tight. The Cowboys would have to make moves just to clear enough space to take on the $7.5 million he is owed this season, and he is going to be due an extension that will pay him even more in 2022.
The salary cap can always be manipulated, but clearing enough space for Gilmore wouldn't be an easy task. If the Cowboys are interested in making a postseason run, this is the kind of move that could set that up.