CLEVELAND — The deal that sent Herschel Walker from the Dallas Cowboys to the Minnesota Vikings ultimately became one of the most infamous trades in not just NFL, but sports history. As it turns out, before he was traded to Minnesota, Walker nearly became a member of the Cleveland Browns.
An upcoming episode of "NFL Icons" on EPIX focuses on the Hall of Fame career of former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson. In the episode, Johnson shares the story behind the 1989 blockbuster, revealing that Dallas nearly made a deal to trade Walker to Cleveland.
"[Former Browns general manager] Ernie [Accorsi], of course, he was with the Cleveland Browns at that time. He called, and we worked out a trade and -- and [it] sounded pretty good," Johnson says. "And he said, well, the only thing is, you know, he'd have to get [Browns owner] Art Modell to sign off on it that night."
But before Accorsi could get approval from Modell on the agreement, Johnson had another trade offer on the table. Looking to make a Super Bowl run of their own, the Vikings offered the Cowboys a package centered around five players and three draft picks, with conditions for additional draft picks should Dallas cut any of the players acquired in the deal.
When all was said and done, the Cowboys had traded away Walker, a pair of third-round picks, a 10th-round pick and a fifth-round pick from the San Diego Chargers for what became eight draft picks from Minnesota, including three first-round and three second-round selections. Dallas went on to use the picks to replenish its roster with the likes of running back Emmit Smith, defensive tackle Russell Maryland, cornerback Kevin Smith and safety Darren Woodson, who remained on the Cowboys' roster for three Super Bowl titles.
As for the Vikings, Walker would rush for 669 yards and five touchdowns in his first 11 games with the team before Minnesota fell to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round. The Georgia product would fail to amass 1,000 rushing yards in either of the following two seasons before leaving the Vikings to sign as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1992.
Meanwhile, the Browns won the AFC Central in 1989 -- their last division title to date -- but fell to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. The Cowboys' five Super Bowl titles trail only the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most ever, while Cleveland and Minnesota are two teams to have still never won a Super Bowl.
The "NFL Icons" episode focused on Johnson airs on EPIX on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 10 p.m. ET.