Trading JuJo? 3 Simple Lessons

IRVING, Tex. - Go ahead and trade Julius Jones, if you insist. Buy him a one-way bus ticket. Tar-and-feather him and toss him on a rail car. Hand him an apple and a road map.

But do not do it now. Not on the eve of the NFL Draft.

Today, three lessons in one session. All on the subject of the rumored availability of JuJo, the Cowboys running back as recently as two years ago touted as "the next Emmitt Smith'' and now treated as a lackluster luxury due in part to the presence of backup Marion Barber III.

Lesson 1: The Telephone Game. First of all, doesn't the gathering-steam rumor sound an awful lot like the Telephone Game, where grade-school kids spread a story that evolves into something different the more it gets whispered?

Credited to be among the original generators is Philly.com, which wrote: The Cowboys aren't exactly shopping running back Julius Jones, but they've told teams that have inquired about him that he's for sale for the right price. Cowboys owner-GM Jerry Jones apparently is prepared to hitch his wagon to the team's other young running back, Marion Barber.

Guys, that's a lot of "ifs'' and "maybes'' and "apparentlys'' and "ass-coverings'' in two sentences. They AREN'T shopping him, but. ...? Dallas is "APPARENTLY willing''? What the hell sort of un-sourced story is that?

Maybe that's because Philly.com didn't really have it first, so it has no substance. Maybe it was the Dallas Morning News that first started the Telephone Game. That's what DMN columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor is now making clear. Jacques writes: I don't mean to brag, but we've been reporting that in various mediums – the blog and the Cowboys newsletter – for months. Dallas will move him for the right deal. ...

So the News wants credit for triggering a what is now a national front-page item. ... even though it's never appeared on the News' front page? Fine, guys, take credit.

But for what?

"Dallas will move him for the right deal''? That's news? I bet Jerry Jones would trade Stephen Jones "for the right deal.'' Hell, I happen to be sleeping with Salma Hayek. And I'll dump her for "the right deal.'' ... assuming "the right deal'' includes Halle Berry and a Scarlett Johannson to be named later!

Lesson 2: Why Fix What Ain't Broke? I approach Lesson 2 with some assumptions. That JuJo doesn't have some skeleton in his closet. (He's not Anna Nicole's babby-daddy, f'rinstance.) That there isn't an attitude problem. That a future contract issue isn't a present contract issue.

And now to the lesson: The Cowboys need to be in the talent-collection business. As much as it frustrates Fantasy Football owners, teams with a stable of able running backs have an edge. Employing both JuJo and MBIII is an asset that can set Dallas above the rest.

Lesson 3: Trade Him If You Must -- Just Not Now. I'm amazed at the number of fans and media members who don't understand this -- except how can they, when the teams themselves don't understand it: March and Arpil are the two months during which a trade of a veteran nets his old team the smallest reward.

It is right around NFL Draft time when clubs believe they have found The Next Big Thing. They see Bright And Shiny Young Objects. They value them.

And therefore, they fail to value "crusty-old washed-up has-been'' three-year veteran runners like Julius.

This is my biggest problem of all with a trade of any veteran at this time: You will not get value for him. Do your research and you will find that while a first-rate running back can be traded for a premier-round draft pick in August and September, when teams find themselves in need, you get NOTHING for swapping that same guy near NFL Draft time. Why? Because every club believes its going to find its gem in the Draft, and therefore undervalues veteran talent.

For a great example, look no further than in Julius' own family.

Thomas Jones is 28. Last year he helped the Bears to the Super Bowl with his 1,210 yards, a 4.1-yard average, and six TDs. Other credentials include 2004, when he ran for a career-best 1,335 yards, a 4.3-yard average and nine TDs in 15 games. And 2003, when he gained 948 yards and seven TDs on 240 carries in 2003, his first season with the Bears. Oh, and he's a top-notch receiver, having caught 118 passes in his three seasons in Chicago.

What would Chicago get for him next August when a contending team finds itself with a runner who just got hurt in a preseason game? Sky's the limit. That's when somebody will overpay for a vet.

What did Chicago get for him on the eve of the NFL Draft? Thomas Jones goes to the Jets along with a Bears' second-round draft pick (the 63rd overall) for one of the Jets' two second-round picks (the 37th overall). Which means, in essence, that all it cost the Jets to get a Pro Bowl-caliber running back was a slide of 26 spots in Round 2.

That's all Thomas Jones is worth? He's not even worth a second-round pick -- but only a SWAPPING of second-round picks?

You wanna trade Julius Jones? I can't really endorse it, unless Halle Berry is included in the deal. But even then, I'm waiting until August.

To see if I can also get Jessica Alba as a throw-in. Pending, of course, her passing my physical.

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