IRVING, Texas -- The Steve Walsh auction is beginning. And if the Los Angeles Raiders complete a deal to acquire holdout quarterback Bobby Hebert from New Orleans, the Saints -- and Walsh -- are poised for the auction to reach a happy ending.
Trade talks that began two months ago were stirred up again Wednesday and yesterday when Saints president Jim Finks contacted Dallas owner Jerry Jones about the possibility of acquiring Walsh, the Cowboys' 23-year-old, second-year quarterback.
"I've never pushed for a trade," said Walsh, dissatisfied with his role behind starter Troy Aikman. "But if the Cowboys get a fair offer, I'd push for them to take it. If the offer's fair, I'd have to speak up."
Cowboys officials yesterday insisted the talks were "casual in nature." Jones said the bulk of his conversations with Finks regarded the NFL's new practice-squad proposal.
"Talks were more serious [two months ago]," Cowboys executive Mike McCoy said. "But there have always been, and will always be, calls about Steve Walsh."
But NFL sources said that should the Saints complete a pending deal that would send Hebert to the Raiders, the Walsh trade is likely to be made in conjunction before the Oct. 16 trade deadline.
Dallas officials privately have been making inquiries around the league about what Hebert would bring in trade. That deal will be used as a measuring stick when the Cowboys ask New Orleans for a similar package for Walsh.
The Raiders' most recent offer for Hebert is a No. 1 pick in 1991 and a high conditional 1992 pick.
At this point in the season, it appears the Cowboys would be pleased with that sort of return on Walsh, who quarterbacked Dallas to its only victory in 1989. Draft picks may make more sense for Dallas than players do, because of the adjustment period involved when a player joins a new club during the season. The Cowboys learned that lesson last year in the blockbuster Herschel Walker deal. Five Minnesota Vikings were acquired in that Oct. 12 trade; none had an impact in his first year.
The Cowboys last year were seeking a No. 1 and a defensive starter in exchange for Walsh, the University of Miami product who has made no secret of his unhappiness on the bench.
"I say do it if it's a fair offer, but what's fair?" said Walsh, a subject of trade rumors since he was taken as the No. 1 supplemental pick in 1989, on the heels of Aikman's No. 1 selection in the regular draft. "But if it's like the one [the Raiders] are talking about for Hebert, a No. 1 and something, that's worth it."
Walsh said he has been told by his agent, Marvin Demoff, that the Saints are exploring other possibilities in the event a Walsh deal falls through.
"I need to take the position that it's just talk," Walsh said. "I don't want to get my hopes up."