“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”
– A Bronx Tale
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.
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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.