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Cowboys trade Crayton to Chargers, acquire seventh-round pick

Patrick Crayton wanted out the minute the Dallas Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant. Crayton finally received his wish Friday, and it might have been worth the wait.

Crayton was dealt to the San Diego Chargers, where he'll be a bigger part of an offense and still play for a contender. The change in locales isn't bad either, although Crayton is leaving the area where he grew up.

The Cowboys received just a seventh-round draft pick in the trade, a league source told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora. The team likely figured it was better than cutting Crayton and receiving nothing, plus it puts him in the other conference.

The Cowboys kept Crayton all summer mainly because there wasn't any incentive to give in to his trade request. But as team officials discussed their 53-man roster, they apparently believed they couldn't justify keeping someone with Crayton's high salary ($2 million) in a reduced role (fourth receiver, backup punt returner).

"You have to take everything into consideration -- economics, how he fits with the team, the overall body of work -- and you make a decision based on that," Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said. "We really waited to evaluate all our receivers. ... We feel very comfortable with our depth."

The Cowboys also feel comfortable with Bryant's health. The former Oklahoma State star missed the entire preseason with a high ankle sprain, but he's ready for the Sept. 12 season opener at Washington. Bryant is expected to take over the roles that Crayton had last season -- No. 3 receiver and punt returner.

Crayton skipped offseason workouts because he was upset about Bryant's arrival. But once Crayton showed up, there weren't any problems. He just couldn't get ahead of Miles Austin, Roy Williams and Bryant on the depth chart, and the Cowboys believed Kevin Ogletree was ready to take on a larger role in his second season.

"I think he's proven he deserves an opportunity," Jones said.

Dallas also has Sam Hurd, a fifth-year pro and special-teams standout. His roster spot could be in jeopardy, too, because he has a $1.8 million contract.

Crayton was among the Cowboys' most sure-handed receivers, catching 196 passes for 2,888 yards and 23 touchdowns in 82 games, including 33 starts. However, fans will never forget that he dropped a likely touchdown pass late in a humiliating playoff loss to the New York Giants in 2007.

Crayton had been with the Cowboys since 2004, part of Bill Parcells' second draft class.

"Patrick's been a very productive player for this organization," Jones said. "He's done nothing but represent the Cowboys in a first-class way. There was never any hard feelings from the organization's standpoint toward Patrick."

Now Crayton can help the Chargers, who have gone the entire offseason without Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson, a restricted free agent who wants a long-term deal. The Chargers' projected starters at wide receiver are Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee. The team also signed free agent Josh Reed to a one-year deal contract in mid-June.

The Chargers have granted the Seattle Seahawks permission to talk with Jackson. The St. Louis Rams also recently expressed interest, but they doubt they will acquire the receiver.

The problems with a Jackson trade -- off-the-field concerns about the player, pending roster-exempt deadline, the cost of signing him and how much Chargers general manager A.J. Smith wants in a deal -- make it difficult to execute. Few teams could make that sort of commitment, financial and otherwise, this late in the offseason, and sources said the Rams and Seahawks have cooled on the likelihood of making the deal.

One executive who investigated the situation told Jason La Canfora, "I don't think A.J. wants to make a trade; he wants to win the trade. And that's just one of the moving parts that make this kind of deal difficult."

Smith didn't return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The Seahawks might be interested in Jackson as a replacement for T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The team has informed the wide receiver that he will be released if no trade options materialize, a league source told La Canfora on Friday.

A trade is highly unlikely, considering Houshmandzadeh's $7 million price tag for this season.

Also Friday, the Cowboys traded offensive lineman Pat McQuistan to the Miami Dolphins for future considerations.

McQuistan was drafted by the Cowboys when Dolphins executives Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland were in Dallas and current Miami coach Tony Sparano was his position coach for two seasons. McQuistan played in 40 games, but he never started.

The acquisition of McQuistan gives the Dolphins more depth in the offensive line. Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long hurt his left knee during Thursday night's preseason finale at Dallas, walked without a limp afterward and said he was fine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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