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Price To Pay For Sweetness Columnist 
March 15, 2004, 5:44 p.m. (CST)   

drafted in the first round or with a first pick and the one high-priced, free-agent signee have gone bust? 

Ideally, the Cowboys probably would like to sign Howard to a five-year deal for around a $12-13 million signing bonus. They'd probably like to hang onto their second-round draft choice, but there seems to be little way around that, unless the Saints are willing to accept a draft choice in 2006. And since the Cowboys do not want to meet the Saints' desire to acquire Dat Nguyen, not sure there are any other expendable starters the Saints would accept that wouldn't significantly weaken one position for the Cowboys to strengthen another. I mean, for a one-for-one, I'm sure the Saints would be asking for like Roy Williams or Terence Newman or Flozell Adams - their accelerated signing bonuses making a trade cap-prohibitive. 

Also, understand the Cowboys aren't the only team interested here, which is sure to drive up the stakes, both for the Saints and Howard. So you have to factor in not necessarily what's fair, but what the auction renders. And as you know, anytime you get involved in a live auction, you overpay, right, because there is always someone else there stubborn enough to drive up the price. 

That means overpay the Saints and overpay Howard - double jeopardy. 

This right here will better allow us to judge just how anxious the Cowboys are to turn things around in 2005. The needle currently seems to be splitting the extremes right down the middle, meaning they'd like to, but not at the expense of, say, 2007. This one might tip the scales. 

We'll see just how sweet this really is.     


!   Other than other teams bidding for Howard, there really isn't any timetable the Cowboys must meet in their attempt to make this trade. And there really is no significance to Howard signing his franchise tender, only to pressure the Saints to either sign him to a long-term deal or trade him. Because that $7.8 million has been counting on the Saints cap ever since they hit him with the franchise tag. 
!   Well, if Willie Blade's NFL career was not already on the line when the Cowboys signed him a third time in January, now it undoubtedly is after tearing his Achilles tendon this week during NFL Europe training camp practice. Not known for his work off-season work ethic, if Blade doesn't diligently rehab over the next six-to-nine months, he'll never recover from the surgery to repair this career-threatening injury. 
!   Evidently the NFL is going to play its first regular-season game outside the United States this season, and according to reports in the Arizona Republic, the game will be in Mexico City matching Arizona and San Francisco on Oct. 2. That anticipated event seemed to have the Cowboys and Raiders written all over it, but again one of the two participants had to forfeit a home game.                                                                                                                                                               

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