There’s been a lot of excitement this offseason surrounding two players that haven’t played a lot of football recently. With rule changes to the NFL’s stance on marijuana and how they’ll handle violations, the expectation is that Randy Gregory will be available for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020. Then the Cowboys signed Aldon Smith, who’s struggled with alcoholism and had several DUIs over the years and, like Gregory, is serving an indefinite suspension. Though the circumstances for their suspensions are vastly different, with regards to the NFL, they’re pretty much in the same boat.
While there’s a legitimate reason for excitement, their presence with the Dallas Cowboys in 2020 is far from a guarantee, though it’s pretty likely.
As a reminder to the tenuous nature of their reinstatement, Ed Werder from ESPN reported yesterday afternoon that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell won’t decide on reinstatement appeals for Randy Gregory or Aldon Smith.
Source: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is not expected to decide whether to reinstate #Cowboys pass-rushers Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory in advance of next week’s NFL draft. So uncertainty will remain as team prioritizes prospects after losing Robert Quinn to the #Bears.
The thought of Gregory and Smith rushing the passer for the Dallas Cowboys is incredibly intriguing. However, there’s no telling what they’ll bring to the field once they are cleared to play by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Because Gregory and Smith are under indefinite suspensions, Goodell is the final authority on their reinstatement proceedings.
By all accounts, Smith and Gregory have done the right things to get themselves in a position to be reinstated this season, but with Roger Goodell, it doesn’t always matter. He has the discretion to demand more from the suspended player on their path back to the NFL.
While it’s disappointing that the Dallas Cowboys won’t have any clarity into their situations before the 2020 NFL Draft, which begins next Thursday night, the reality is it doesn’t change anything. The Cowboys were still going to look at drafting an edge rusher in this year’s draft class. That’s why they’ve met with K’Lavon Chaisson, Zack Baun, and Kenny Willekes. And it’s not because they don’t think Smith and Gregory will be back in uniform in 2020, it’s because they won’t know what they have in those two guys until they’re back on the practice field for OTAs, Minicamp, and Training Camp (if any of these occur).
Aldon Smith hasn’t played football since 2015. Randy Gregory played all of 2018 but sat out again in 2019 due to suspension. These two guys are gifted players who should be able to provide something to the Dallas Cowboys defense, but they can’t go into the NFL Draft planning on Smith and Gregory being ready to be the starter at right defensive end. The Cowboys must be prepared for the possibility that even if Smith and Gregory are available week one of the NFL season that they aren’t prepared to handle a full workload at right defensive end from the jump.
And that means going into the draft understanding that edge rusher remains a top priority after the Cowboys lost Robert Quinn in free agency to the Chicago Bears.
It would be great if both Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory can return and be impact players for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020 and beyond. However, until we see them on the practice field against Cowboys Offensive Tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, the Cowboys are placing too lofty expectations on a couple of players who haven’t played consistently in the last five seasons.
Whatever the Dallas Cowboys get out of Randy Gregory and Aldon Smith should be considered icing on the cake and excellent reinforcements to their edge rusher depth. The Cowboys were always going to go into this draft without counting on their two suspended edge rushers, but this report from Ed Werder just reinforces that plan to the Cowboys and the public. Edge rusher will be high on their list as they work through their draft next week.