Don't Believe the Hype: LJ to Dallas?

IRVING, Texas -- There could be a sliver of truth in every rumor. A grain of reality in every gossip item. Think of it like professional wrestling, which is all fake. ... except for the dying part.

The speculation about a trade that would ship Larry Johnson to Dallas is like that. It's all rumors; I've dug around Valley Ranch, trying to confirm that there have been substantive discussions with Kansas City regarding the disgruntled superstar running back, and all I got from it is an empty shovel, an empty notepad and a sore back.

Except for one sliver. One grain.

"The (Dallas) running backs don't offer that 'wow' factor,'' says a source close to the innerworkings of the Cowboys. "There isn't that guy who, when he gets his hands on the ball, makes everybody stand up and take notice.''

That observation is a far, far cry from "Therefore, we're going to trade for L.J.'' It is also a far, far cry from saying, "JuJo, MB3 and Tyson Thompson stink.''

But it is an acknowledgement of sorts that Julius Jones isn't considered to be as "special'' as we thought him to be as a rookie, that Marion Barber isn't yet considered to be anything more than solid (rather than spectacular), and that Thompson -- who I'm told has done intense offseason work in an attempt to add flexibility to his speedy-but-stiff running style -- isn't considered at all.

Contrast that with the Chiefs' Johnson, the Pro Bowler with fresh legs and a fresh mind and a confrontational approach to running the football. He's probably the best thing this side of LaDainian Tomlinson, a record-setting power back who is also a scoring machine and a home-run hitter.

Larry Johnson has that elusive "wow'' factor.

Maybe Julius Jones gets it back. This is a kid who once talked about rushing for a crazy number of yards. ... only none of us thought it was all that crazy at the time. Maybe MB3 gets more carries and demonstates that he does indeed have it. If Barber is truly a guy who gets stronger with more carries, maybe you gotta give him more carries. Or heck, maybe you hold onto whatever ammunition it would take to pry Johnson from Kansas City (a first? a second?) and use it in next year's draft to secure Darren McFadden, who is going to be seeing a lot of ol' Razorback Jerry Jones this fall every Saturday in Arkansas.

The Cowboys have a question mark. The Chiefs, though, have it worse -- because the situation teases them in that they have the answer AND the question mark, all rolled into one.

The Chiefs are in for a difficult summer. Johnson is slated to make $1.7 million. He'll pass. He'll sit. He'll mope. He'll whine. He'll argue that he IS the Chiefs' chance to be a contender, and his 416 carries last year says it is so.

He's 27, so he's in his prime. Oh, and "27'' is probably a pivotal number in another way: One report says that's how much in guaranteed money it'll take Kansas City to get possible holdout LJ to show up for work.

Do the Cowboys want that price tag, in terms of dollars and tradeable assets? Do the Cowboys want Larry Johnson, alleged to be something of a flake? Do the Cowboys want that "wow factor'' at running back?

I don't know that they want it in the form of Larry Johnson. But I know that they aren't certain they have it now.

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