What made that trade look so egregiously bad was the brilliant job Johnson did with the picks he got. Had half of those picks bombed, and the Cowboys were simply ordinary, not a single mention would ever be made of it again.
The fact that he hit home run on top of home run and built the last truly great team we'll probably ever see is why it is remembered the way it is.
The way the deal was structured, failure was as remote an outcome as possible. As reported at the time, the Vikings GM was on notice that he was gone no matter what, and was actively working to stick it to the owner. That was relatively common knowledge then, but because Jones had lobbied so hard to get his friend, Tagliabue his job as the Commissioner, the league apparently turned a blind eye to a trade that was no where near anything, but collusion to undermine the otherwise fair draft system.
Now, did Johnson and the personnel people pick right...yep. Did they get a bevy of players to test out in OTA's and training camp? yep. Did they get to keep the good ones (like jack Del Rio) and ship back the bad ones for additional picks? yep. After they got all of those pieces at one time and had no other extra help, did Jones petition a rules change so that compensatory picks for FA losses could not be higher than the end of the 3rd round (some of his just prior were better)? yep. Once ALL that they garnered from that extra help evaporated, have they ever been the same? nope. Will they ever be? probably not....without cheating again, anyway.
There are a lot of ways to create an unfair advantage for the sake of increasing revenues.....what happened with the Cowboys was just one of them.....but it definitely was one of them....from my point of view.