"The saddest thing in life is wasted talent."
- A Bronx Tale
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory has failed another drug test. Currently serving a combined 14-game ban for a previous offenses, Gregory is now subject to a year-long ban from the NFL.
Gregory's drug issues and personal baggage cost him millions of dollars in the 2015 NFL Draft. He could have been a Top-15 pick or better, but the dynamic pass rusher fell to the second round because of these concerns. They have cost him nearly all of his second season, and now they may cost him his career.
Clearly, Gregory hasn't learned any lessons. Now, the question is if the Cowboys have learned theirs.
The debate about marijuana use and how much the NFL should be policing it is a separate issue. Regardless of your politics or personal opinion, the simple fact is that there are a set of rules right now for being an NFL player. You either care enough to follow them or you don't.
With Randy Gregory showing he doesn't care enough about being a football player, the Cowboys have to decide if he's worth their trouble. Does this young team, currently a Super Bowl contender and seemingly on the cusp of staying there for some time, need a guy like Gregory in the locker room?
You don't need to look far for an example of how a team's faith can go unrewarded. Rolando McClain is probably sitting somewhere along on the Chattahoochee River, waiting for a fish to bite while his football career goes to an early grave.
That isn't to say all risks fail. There have been many NFL players who overcame whatever personal problems caused a stumble and became productive, even superstars.
The risk factor on Randy Gregory wasn't just from personal problems, either. Although he was 6'5" as a rookie, his lean 235-lb frame led to concern that he could be put on the weight to hold up as a defensive lineman. While his athleticism and burst worked well in the 2015 preseason, Gregory was not effective when he played during the real games.
Now, unfortunately, Gregory's behavior and choices are making the physical issues a moot point.
By all accounts, Gregory is not the kind of selfish, lazy player that Rolando McClain has proven to be. Not only did he go to rehab for the drug issues but he's reportedly been with the team while suspended.
True story. Gregory is here quite often, working alongside Jaylon. Oh well. https://t.co/G5UDCjDFoL
The difference between Gregory and McClain was also evident in how the Cowboys have talked about and handled them during their suspensions. Dallas clearly still believed in Gregory and thought he was capable of turning things around.
Even if marijuana isn't an addictive substance, there's something about its effects that Gregory is clearly addicted to. If there really is some internal pain that he's trying to escape from with his drug use, you can't help but feel sympathy.
Unfortunately, that doesn't mean he deserve to play in the NFL. None of us could use that excuse in our own jobs.
Jerry Jones had a great quote earlier this year about how availability is more important than ability. Whether its drug suspensions, chronic injuries, or whatever else keeps a guy off the football field, his talent and potential don't amount to much when he's in streets clothes.
Assuming this latest offense and the one-year suspension stick, Randy Gregory would not be eligible to play football again until the Cowboys last few regular season games of 2017. They have two options now:
1. Cut Gregory Loose
For the last few seasons, the "Right Kind of Guy" mantra that Jason Garrett preaches has been kicked squarely in the crotch. This latest failing from Gregory may not find much room for mercy.
Greg Hardy was the glaring contradiction, but the issues with Rolando McClain and Gregory haven't helped. Joseph Randle's spree of craziness, though he didn't last long with the Cowboys, hasn't helped the perception. Even the teams loyalty to Josh Brent after his DUI was brought into question.
Dallas could simply end their relationship with Gregory immediately or after the season. The two remaining years on his rookie contract would be a wash on the salary cap; the dead money and cap relief are almost equal in 2017.
You only make this move if you believe one of the following:
- Your locker room needs to see that you will only tolerate so much from any one player, no matter where he was drafted or how much potential you think he has.
- You've truly lost faith that Randy Gregory can turn his life and career around.
2. Wait and See
With Gregory suspended and not counting against their roster limit, the Cowboys don't necessarily have to do anything. If he started now, Gregory would have almost six months until the Cowboys post-draft camps and OTAs. Perhaps a more extensive or intensive rehab stay, as opposed to the few months he did this past summer, would be fruitful.
Two of the NFL's most notorious marijuana offenders, wide receivers Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon, remain under contract with their teams. The difference between them and Gregory is that they've both displayed league-leading potential when they've played, whereas Gregory has barely played enough to do so.
Dallas doesn't get that second-round pick back if they release Gregory. He counts very little against the salary cap and doesn't impact the roster while suspended. Knowing all that, how much does it really cost to keep him around?
If you're confident in your locker room and don't see Gregory as a bad influence or precedent, there's really nothing to gain by releasing him. You'd only be appeasing angry, disappointed fans.
~ ~ ~
In the midst of so much good in this 2016 Cowboys season, a story like this almost feels out of place. Randy Gregory, as absent as he's been the last two years, has never seemed less a part of this team's culture or direction as right now.
The organization's momentum hasn't been this strong in some time, nor its future so bright. It's sad that Gregory doesn't appear capable of being part of the youth movement.
Even if it's not in Dallas, I just hope he finds some answers soon.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.
Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.
Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.
The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.
Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.
Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.
In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.
This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.
Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan
Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.
The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.
Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
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