Are the Cowboys making a mistake by trading Carpenter for Barron?

In wake of the Cowboys’ decision to trade linebacker Bobby Carpenter to the Rams for offensive tackle Alex Barron, Gil Lebreton of the Dallas Star-Telegram writes that the ‘Boys are making a big mistake.

Lebreton (via St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz) points out that Barron has committed 43 false start and 13 holding penalties in 74 NFL starts. He’s also allowed 16 sacks over the last two seasons, prompting Lebreton to write that Tony Romo will be scrambling an awful lot next season. Lebreton also makes the argument that the Cowboys could have gotten more for Carpenter, who could flourish playing in Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 defense.

But what Lebreton fails to mention is that Barron isn’t a replacement for Doug Free at left tackle. For better or worse, Free is being counted on as the starter and Barron is viewed more as insurance in case Free (who is inexperienced as a starter) struggles in the early going. Barron also has experience playing right tackle, which is key considering Marc Colombo suffered a fractured fibula during the regular season last year.

Lebreton has a point that the Cowboys probably could have gotten more in return for Carpenter than a lineman that they view as an insurance policy. But general managers aren’t stupid – they know when other teams have given up on a player and they’re not going to overpay. Teams knew that Carpenter wasn’t a great fit for Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense and was likely to be dealt at some point during the offseason. Dallas had a need for an offensive tackle, so it pounced on the Barron trade. Is Barron a good player? He certainly hasn’t shown it so far. But maybe the trade will serve as a wake up call and he’ll elevate his game knowing that he’s now playing for a contender.

Considering this is the same offseason in which Donovan McNabb was acquired for a second round pick, Jason Campbell a fourth and Santonio Holmes a fifth, this trade isn’t as bad as Lebreton makes it out to be. Even if Carpenter turns out to be a Pro Bowler down the road, it doesn’t mean that he would have had the same success in Dallas. Some players just aren’t a fit for certain schemes.

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2009 NFL Preview: #31 St. Louis Rams

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Offseason Additions: Jason Brown (C); James Butler (CB); Kyle Boller (QB); Billy Bajema (TE).

Offseason Losses: Torry Holt (WR); Orlando Pace (OT); Pisa Tinoisamoa (LB); Nick Leckey (C); Anthony Becht (TE); Fakhir Brown (CB); Jason Craft (CB); Dane Looker (WR); Brett Romberg (C).

Player to Watch: Laurent Robinson, WR.
The Rams acquired the former third round pick from Atlanta this offseason and thus far, he has impressed. He’s already solidified the No. 2 receiver position across from Donnie Avery and could emerge as the Rams’ top playmaker in their passing game. At 6’2, 194-pounds, Robinson has excellent size, speed and has demonstrated this summer that he can catch the ball in traffic. Injuries forced him out of Atlanta, but he’s making a name for himself in St. Louis and could become a household name by the end of the season.

Team Strength: In the past three years, the Rams have invested two first round picks in their defensive line and with the guidance of former Giants’ defensive guru Steve Spagnuolo, the unit could become a strength this season. Of course, that will depend on whether or not former second overall pick Chris Long can take the next step in his development and if former ’07 first round pick Adam Carriker can stay healthy. Defensive ends tend take a couple years to develop, but Long has the drive and tenacity to inevitably succeed. Although he’s getting long in the tooth, Leonard Little still brings plenty to the table as a pass rusher and could help free up Long to make plays on the other side. Assuming Carriker and Little can stay healthy and Long blossoms in his second year, the D-line could be one of the few positives for the Rams this season.

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