The latest NFL trade doesn't involve a big name going to a new team, or a swap of huge contracts. It's based more on the hope that two high-drafted and ultimately disappointing players can find new roles and success in new environments. The principals, St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Alex Barron(notes) and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bobby Carpenter(notes), will be traded for each other as soon as Barron signs his restricted free-agent tender, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Barron, who was made redundant by the ascent of Jason Smith(notes) and the 2010 selection of Rodger Saffold(notes), is a talented but inconsistent player who struggles with technique and penalties -- more on that in a minute.
Carpenter, who was drafted by Bill Parcells at least in part because the Big Tuna coached his father, Rob Carpenter, with the Giants in the 1980s, has started a grand total of three games in his four-year career. That's far less than you require from a player taken with the 18th overall pick; he wasn't involved in enough plays in the 2009 season to make the grade for Dallas' front seven numbers for Football Outsiders. It's possible that the Ohio State alum will find more success as a weakside linebacker in St. Louis' 4-3 defense than he ever did in Dallas' various 3-4 and 5-2-4 looks.
As for Barron, he'll replace the departed Flozell Adams(notes) in two very important ways. First, he'll most likely bump Doug Free(notes) as Dallas' swing tackle as a too-old offensive line looks to rebuild. Second, he'll keep the Cowboys penalty totals at a high rate. According to Football Outsiders' penalty database, Adams was flagged 13 times in 2009, second-highest in the NFL. The only guy to beat him was ... you guessed it. Barron was penalized 14 times in 2009, including declined and offsetting, and it's a common trend for the tackle, who was taken 19th overall in the 2005 draft. In 2007, Barron was flagged 16 times -- only Oakland lineman Robert Gallery(notes) had more laundry thrown in his direction. And in 2006, his 16 flags trailed only Baltimore cornerback Chris McAlister's(notes) 18. He found unusual discipline in 2008 with a mere 11, so he has that going for him. Still, it's going to be tough for Barron to improve on his rookie campaign, when he led the league with 18 penalties.
The nice thing about Barron is that he doesn't discriminate -- he's a multi-dimensional penalty machine. While he preferred false starts early in his career (nine of them, compared to just five holds in that initial campaign), he's managed to develop a holding style that's really attracted the attention of the league's officiating crews. In 2009, he put together a league-leading seven holds with just five false starts. That's what you want in an offensive lineman -- versatility!
Cowboys line coach Hudson Houck may have thought that Adams' departure could lead to a more disciplined front five. Don't throw out the Advil, Coach -- you may now have the kind of penalty greatness to which Adams could only aspire.