Pro Football Talk is reporting that the Cowboys and Rams are closing in on a deal that would send nickel linebacker Bobby Carpenter to St. Louis for offensive tackle Alex Barron . The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting the deal will happen as soon as tomorrow. The main deterrents to a possible trade are the contracts of both players. Carpenter is in the final year of his contract and Barron is a restricted free agent.
Assuming the teams are able to overcome the financial issues, the deal appears to be a good one for Dallas. In our projected 53-man roster , we had Carpenter being cut . We feel the Cowboys will be lucky to receive anything for him. The Rams likely feel the same way about Barron.
In our Inside Linebacker Grades (run defense stats shown to the left), we gave Carpenter a "D+" . He is very limited in Coach Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. The addition of second-rounder Sean Lee and the possible emergence of second-year linebacker Jason Williams means there is very little room for Carpenter on the Cowboys, even as a nickel linebacker.
A more important question might be how well Barron would fit in with Dallas. The Cowboys’ coaches seem confident in newly-appointed starting left tackle Doug Free (who we provided a solid overall grade of "B-" ). Barron would likely compete with Free for the starting gig, with the loser becoming a (very above-average) swing tackle.
We can’t help but wonder, though, whether the Cowboys would have just been better off keeping Flozell Adams. To determine the answer, we decided to compare the 2009 statistics of Adams and Barron (shown below).
As you can see, the numbers of the two players are quite similar. So, the Cowboys would have been just as well off to keep Adams, right? Well, not necessarily. Remember that sacks, hits, and pressures are all dependent on not just offensive linemen, but also the mobility of the quarterback. With Rams quarterback Marc Bulger basically a sitting duck for opposing defenses, it was very difficult for any St. Louis lineman to attain quality numbers last season.
Further, we consider quarterback pressures to be the statistic which is most indicative of a lineman’s success in pass protection. Sacks are a bit too fluky and are represented by too small a sample size to be completely statistically significant. Moreover, they are much more dependent on the mobility of the quarterback than pressures–a stat which is more ripe for comparison between linemen on different squads.
Adams yielded 1.57 times the quarterback pressures of Barron in 2009 . We feel confident in saying that the number of sacks and hits Barron gave up would have been significantly lower had he played for the Cowboys (and consequently protected for an athletic, mobile quarterback) last season.
Of course, pass protection isn’t the only component of linemen duties. Without a database of statistics similar to the one we have compiled for the Cowboys’ 2009 plays, it is difficult to determine how effective Barron was in run blocking.
According to Pro Football Focus, Barron was a slightly below-average run blocker in 2009 . PFF does a fairly decent job in grading game film, so if we take this assessment to be true, how much of an upgrade (if at all) is Barron over Adams?
Well, we provided Adams with a "D+" in pass protection and a "B" in run blocking, for a " C-" (73.4 percent) overall grade . We would give Barron a "B-" in pass protection and (according to PFF) a "C-" in run blocking. This would result in a "C+" overall grade (79 percent).
Thus, we feel Barron is an upgrade over Adams . The increase in pass protection ability from Barron to Adams also makes the upgrade even greater than the 5.6 percent grade differential, as the Cowboys could probably benefit more from a quality pass protector (particularly on Romo’s blind side) than another solid run blocker.
The issue fans should be most concerned about regarding Barron’s play is his penalty count . Everyone knows how much Adams struggled with penalties throughout his career in Dallas. Barron had one more penalty than Adams in 2009. If Barron can limit this number to single digits, the upgrade in pass protection that would come with his addition would likely mean a Carpenter-for-Barron swap would bring with it very high upside and opportunity for success.