The Mad Scientist NFL History 101: The Trade

My name is Nick Ficorelli. I am known as “The Mad Scientist of Sports” in the independent sports talk radio world. I am also a huge Minnesota Vikings fan, and I have been asked many times about “The Trade”. I could only tell people what happened, but could not tell people the whole history of the deal.

After watching the 30 for 30 Short by ESPN, “The Great Trade Robbery”, I decided to delve into it further, and well, let’s just say it caused the rise of one franchise, and the decimation of another. It was the largest player trade in NFL history, and below is the complete breakdown of the whole deal from start to finish.

The Trade took place on October 12, 1989 (can’t believe it is 26 years ago, still stings as if it was only yesterday). Believing the Vikings to be only a big-time RB away from winning it all, then Vikings GM Mike Lynn acquired Herschel Walker from the Cowboys and new owner Jerry Jones and new coach Jimmy Johnson for 5 roster players (LB Jesse Solomon, DB Issiac Holt, RB Darrin Nelson, LB David Howard, DE Alex Stewart), and 6 assorted draft picks (conditional 1st & 2nd round in ’90 and ’91; 1st round and conditional 3rd in ’92).

Nelson, upset at being traded, refused to report to the Cowboys and was traded to the San Diego Chargers, ultimately returning to the Vikings. The result of the trade to San Diego was the Vikings sending a 6th round pick in 1990 and the original conditional 2nd round pick in 1991, and the Chargers sending their 5th round pick in 1990 to Minnesota via Dallas.

The Cowboys then waived DE Alex Stewart and threatened to waive other players in order to get all of the conditional draft picks. In February 1990, the Cowboys traded their 3rd and 10th round picks and their 1991 3rd rounder to the Vikings so that they could keep the 3 remaining roster players and all of the conditional draft picks. So the initial trade looked as follows:

Vikings Cowboys
RB Herschel Walker LB Jesse Solomon
Dallas’s 3rd round pick – 1990 (54) LB David Howard
San Diego’s 5th round pick – 1990 (116) CB Isaac Holt
Dallas’s 10th round pick – 1990 (249) Minnesota’s 1st round pick in 1991 (21)
Dallas’s 3rd round pick – 1991 (68) Minnesota’s 2nd round pick in 1990 (47)
Minnesota’s 6th round pick in 1990 (158)
Minnesota’s 1st round pick in 1991 (conditional) – (11)
Minnesota’s 2nd round pick in 1991 (conditional) – (38)
Minnesota’s 1st round pick in 1993 (conditional) – (13)
Minnesota’s 2nd round pick in 1992 (conditional) – (40)
NOTE: Brackets () indicate the overall pick number. Minnesota’s 3rd round pick in 1992 (conditional) – (71)

On April 19, 1990 Dallas traded Minnesota’s 2nd pick and Kansas City’s 3rd pick in 1990 to San Francisco for RB Terrence Flagler, DE Daniel Stubbs, SF 3rd round pick in 1990 and SF 11th round pick in 1990.

On April 22, 1990 (draft day), Dallas traded Minnesota’s 1st pick in 1990 and SF 3rd pick in 1990 to Pittsburgh for Pitt’s 1st round pick (#21 and #81 for #17) and selected RB Ambit Smith. With the #21 pick, Pittsburgh selected TE Eric Green.

Minnesota picked TE Mike Jones with the #54 pick, WR Reggie Thorton with the #116 pick and WR Pat Newman with the #249 pick. San Francisco selected DT Dennis Brown with the #47 pick. Dallas traded Minnesota’s 6th round pick, an 8th round pick from NE, a 9th round pick from Seattle, a 10th round pick from Indianapolis and an 11th round pick from San Francisco to the LA Raiders for LA’s fifth round choice in 1990, DB Stan Smagala (#122 overall).

Minnesota’s 6th round pick (#158) ended up in New Orleans who selected LB James Williams (Mississippi State). San Francisco’s 3rd and 11th round picks (#81 and #304 overall) ended up with New Orleans (DL Craig Veasey – Houston) and LA Raiders (RB Myron Jones from Fresno State) respectively.

On September 3, 1990 Dallas traded Minnesota’s 2nd round pick in 1991 (#38 overall) and its own 5th round pick in 1991 (#105 overall) to Houston for RB Alonzo Highsmith.

On April 19, 1991 (draft) Dallas traded Minnesota’s 1st pick, Dallas’ 2nd, DB Ron Francis, LB David Howard and LB Eugene Lockhart to New England for New England’s 1st pick (#1 overall) and selected DT Russell Maryland. With Minnesota’s pick (#11 overall) New England selected OL Pat Harlow. With the #38 pick, Houston picked DB Darryl Lewis (Arizona). With Dallas’ 3rd round pick (#68 overall) Minnesota selected WR Jake Reed.

On Sept. 16, 1991 Dallas traded LB Jesse Solomon to New England (who sent him to TB) for New England’s 6th round pick (#149 overall) in 1992.

On April 26, 1992 (draft) Dallas traded Minnesota’s 1st and 3rd round picks (#13 and #71 overall) to New England for NE 1st, 2nd and 4th round picks (#19, #37 and #104 overall). Dallas traded the #19 and #104 picks to Atlanta for Atlanta’s 1st and 5th round picks (#17 and #120 overall). Dallas traded Minnesota’s 2nd round pick (#40 overall) to Kansas City for 2nd and 3rd round picks (#47 and #74 overall).

Dallas traded the #47, #74 picks to Washington for a 2nd and a 3rd round pick (#56 and #58 overall). Dallas traded the #56 pick to Detroit for 3rd, 4th and 9th round picks (#82, #109 and #250 overall).

In the 1992 draft Dallas selected CB Kevin Smith (#17 – Texas A&M), S Darren Woodson (#37 – Arizona State), CB Clayton Holmes (#58 – Carson Newman, OL James Brown (#82 – Virginia State), G Tom Myslinski (#109 – Tennessee), S Greg Briggs (#120 – Texas Southern), TE Fallon Wacasey (#149 – Tulsa), S Chris Hall (#250 – East Carolina). New England selected T Eugene Chung (#13 – Virginia Tech) and RB Kevin Turner (#71 – Alabama) and Kansas City selected QB Matt Blundin (#40 – Virginia) with Minnesota’s original picks.

The 1992 draft completed the trade. Herschel Walker was released by the Vikings in May 1992 and was picked up by Philadelphia and eventually ended up back with the Cowboys in 1996. Mike Jones was supposed to be the replacement for Jordan but never lived up to expectations; he was waived in 1992.

Thorton did not make the team, Newman was lost in Plan B (Saints). Jake Reed is still with the Vikings. The Cowboys waived Holt in 1993 (Kevin Smith took over); Highsmith, Fragler, Stubbs were disappointments and were waived after a year; the lower picks in 1992 did not make the team.

The end results of the trade after 1992:

Vikings Cowboys
WR Jake Reed RB Emmitt Smith
DT Russell Maryland
CB Kevin Smith
S Darren Woodson
CB Clayton Holmes

Players selected with the actual picks traded to Dallas:

1990 1st Round (#21) TE Eric Green Pittsburgh
1990 2nd Round (#47) DT Dennis Brown San Francisco
1990 6th Round (#158) LB James Williams New Orleans
1991 1st Round (#11) OT Pat Harlow New England
1991 2nd Round (#38) DB Darryl Lewis Houston
1992 1st Round (#13) OL Eugene Chung New England
1992 2nd Round (#40) QB Matt Blundin Kansas City
1992 3rd Round (#71) RB Kevin Turner New England

Perhaps the Vikings could’ve salvaged something out of having decimated their team for one player (particularly their defense), but Walker was never used properly by the coaching brain trust.

Walker left the Vikings for Philadelphia soon after, and ultimately wound up back in Dallas, an ironic completion of Herschel’s journey. Mike Lynn would become the most hated man in Minnesota sports history. Jerry and Jimmy would create the monster that would win 3 super bowls in 4 years.

All in all, it was, and still is, the most completely lopsided trade ever made in the history of the National Football League, and it could be argued for all of sports.


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