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Is a Marion Barber Trade Possible?

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We hear the phrase “trade Marion Barber” more from fans than any other string of words outside of “trade Roy Williams.”  We have long said that trading Barber, even in an uncapped year, is impossible.  No one will want to take on an oft-injured running back with a big contract.

Todd Archer of Dallas Morning News took a look at the possibility yesterday.  Like us, he admitted he initially saw no way that Barber could be let loose:  he is due $8 million this year between his salary and roster bonus and $24 million over the next three seasons.

Archer, though, has changed his tune, claiming that a Barber trade is actually possible (although still unlikely).  Barber’s base salary of $3.8 million this year, he says, is workable for other teams.  A running back-needy team might just be willing to jump at the opportunity to grab Barber.

However, we still don’t see Barber being traded.  First, running backs are a dime-a-dozen nowadays. Why trade for an aging one when you can simply plug in a rookie?  With the third or fourth round pick a team might yield for Barber, they could possibly draft Tennessee’s Montario Hardesty or Auburn’s Ben Tate.

Secondly, Barber’s contract in future years won’t be as workable as it is for 2010.  Trade partners would be off the hook for Barber’s roster bonus in 2010, but not so in the coming years.  Is Barber $16 million over the next two seasons?  There is a reason the Cowboys don’t have teams pounding down their door for his services.

Third, why would the Cowboys want to let Barber go? Sure, it would be tempting if the compensation was an early-round draft selection.  But it won’t be.  Barber is still fairly young and, agree or not, he is a crucial part of the Cowboys’ rushing attack.

Should the Cowboys lose any of their stud backs (including Barber), they would be one injury away from becoming dangerously thin at the position. Possessing three talented running backs is a luxury, but one that the Cowboys cannot afford to throw away.  This logic is the same reason trading Tashard Choice just makes no sense.

Finally, Barber is still a capable running back when healthy. He has taken some shots over the years, but he is just 26 years old.  He is working on his speed with a private trainer in addition to Cowboys’ off-season workouts, so we know he is doing everything possible to prepare himself for a monster season.

Barber may lose his starting job to Felix Jones in 2010 but, barring a huge trade offer, there is no reason for him to lose his roster spot as well.


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15 Responses to Is a Marion Barber Trade Possible?

  1. john coleman says:

    I hope JJ learned his lesson with Barber. No more big contracts with long term deals. Unless the player is a game breaker, starting LT,QB, Sack Monster, or CB no need. I agree with you on RBs, most are the easiest position on the team to replace.

  2. Yup–RB’s are all over the place nowadays. Yes, there are a few who are true impact players (AP, CJ, etc), but (and I hate to say this) we can find a guy like Barber in the 2nd round every year.

  3. Omar says:

    I generally agree, with the thesis of the article and the points. But since I’m bored, and an asshole, I’ll disagree.

    1.) Totally agreed, however, NFL GMs still aren’t very smart. There’s plenty of Vet happy GMs and owners (HELLO AL DAVIS!!!) so I while forward thinking individuals like us are high on rookie RBs…that’s not necessarily true of those who run NFL teams.

    2.) For me, this is the biggest reason to trade him. It’s an uncapped year, and he’s aging. Yeah, he’s only 26, but he’s a little guy that’s taken quite a bit of big hits and delivered a few himself. If it’s not going to be as workable in the coming years…well you may as well sell while you can get the most value for him.

    3.) Again, agreed…but it’s not all about age, it’s about the work load and the body that the workload’s been placed on. I don’t want a Brandon Jacobs type situation where he just hits a wall. He was worked pretty heavily the past couple of years so there’s a good chance that his cliff is coming. He’s an important piece, but he’s not an irreplaceable one. His importance comes from his running style, and the fact that he’s the primary RB in a three back rotation. He’s been great for the boys, but his best years are likely behind him and it’s time to start looking for his replacement, and maximizing his value. If his value is a third or fourth round pick, I feel that he’d be worth trading him if there’s a projectable RB with a similar style to him available in the mid rounds…he’d be worth dealing for a mid round pick if there’s a player that they value (say an Eric Norwood)

    4.) Agreed…if they trade him they’ll have to fill his hole, I just don’t feel this is a dealbreaker. If anything it’s incentive to trade him and get younger when you’re faced with a deep draft.

    5.) Very true, but he’s been given a lot of work and taken a lot of hits, “when healthy” may come less and less often.

  4. Nice analysis. My responses:
    1. You are right. Every team’s strategy is different. It is teams like the Riaders though that allow awesome players to fall to the Cowboys.

    2. While his contract WOULD be a reason to trade him, also note that it is a block in obtaining good value for him. If we don’t like the future of the contract, why would another team?

    3. I disagree that Barber is trade-able for a 4th rounder. If Garrett can keep him fresh and utilize Barber’s strengths (a big ‘if’), then he is still probably better than any 4th rounder in the draft.

    4. You’re right that it is a deep draft. Deep for RBs though? I’m not sure. Would you really rather have, say, Toby Gerhart than Barber?

    5. I knew the “when healthy” clause would draw some attention, but you are right. A player’s ability when healthy is irrelevant if he is always injured.

  5. Omar says:

    My thing about the contract, is if you’re going to trade him…and I don’t think keeping for another three years and 24 M is a good idea, may as well do it in an uncapped year and perhaps kick in salary (if that’s allowed in the NFL even)

    You’re right about Garrett and Barber’s potential, but I’m thinking long term here…players like him don’t have a very long shelf life.

    As to Gerhart, if it’s Gerhart AND another player that dropped…yeah, I’d prefer to get younger and cut salary. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Gerhart though. I also like Ben Tate:

    http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/draft10/insider/news/story?id=4956769

    He’s not projected to go in the late rounds…if there’s a player that they like that’s available in the third or fourth, maybe a guy like a Spikes, Norwood, or AOA that drops, I can see trading Barber for the pick and trying to pick up a guy like Ben Tate later.

  6. Omar says:

    Also, by and large RBs are dependent upon the offensive line…if they beef that up, all they really need is a RB that has speed and can hit a hole.

  7. I like Spikes, Norwood, and AOA a lot, although I doubt AOA will drop out of the late second/early third range.

    Still, does obtaining Norwood (4) and Tate (5), for example, beat keeping Barber and drafting perhaps Major Wright, Lamarr Houston, etc. later? I’m not sure.

  8. Omar says:

    Considering that I really don’t think he’ll make it another three years at the rate they use him, and with his contract he may become a cap liability…I’d rather deal him now during the uncapped year where they can work something out so that when it is capped his contract doesn’t effect them. What I’m trying to avoid is having a used up expensive running back on the roster. They cut two productive, yet aging and potential liabilities with a year left on their deal at positions that they’re surprisingly thin at, and positions that are hard to replace. I can see them cutting an expensive player at a position that they’re deep at that’s fairly fungible. I mean this year, Barber and drafting one of those guys is probably better…but over course of Barber’s contract I’d probably rather have the younger and cheaper combo. Who knows, they may sign an undrafted free agent bruiser RB that can fill Barber’s role well enough (though they can also do that independent of trading Barber, I just feel that his role isn’t that hard to fill, also note that fill and duplicate aren’t the same things).

  9. I agree, but at a certain point you just have to try to win now, even if it means SLIGHTLY (only slightly) sacrificing the future. Maybe moving Barber, Flo, and Hamlin is the right thing to do long-term. But is it good for 2010? Probably not. The Cowboys are set up to win right now, and they need to do everything possible to do just that.

  10. Omar says:

    See the thing is, I don’t put Barber on the same plane as Adams/Hamlin, it’s not like RBs are hard to replace and it’s not like they don’t have two other good ones,safeties and left tackles on the other hand… Plus Adams/Hamlin only had one year left on their deals…exactly what were they gaining by cutting them, where they’d get nothing from them. If they can trade Barber and get a rookie RB that they can plug in and contribute…not to mention another player that falls that can contribute.

  11. I see your points…but I just don’t think the compensation would be great enough to select a player who could effectively take over for Barber.

    Are the Cowboys loaded at RB? Yes. Could Choice and Jones handle the load in 2010 without Barber? Only if they don’t get injured.

    That is a big ‘if,’ and I just wouldn’t want to see Jones go down and the seem be left with Choice and a 3rd or 4th round rookie.

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