Defensive end Aldon Smith took the league by storm with 33.5 sacks in his first two seasons. Unfortunately, his demons off the field forced a five-year hiatus from the NFL for the once-promising star.
The former first-round pick would get a chance to redeem himself though, as the Dallas Cowboys signed him to a one-year deal in April of 2020. There were concerns about how well he would perform after so much time away from the field. However, with his personal life in a much better place, he showed flashes of what he once was this season.
Smith didn't waste any time making an impact. In the season opener, not only did Smith record an amazing 11 tackles but he also got his first sack since 2015. A few weeks later, however, he had his best game of the season with three sacks against the Seattle Seahawks. It was the most sacks he's had in a game since 2012 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
Aldon Smith is presently a beast and if you ever get 5 splash plays in one day, you also get a Montage! pic.twitter.com/mtD05MaQZL
The rest of the season was a bit of a struggle for Smith. He finished the season with nearly 50 tackles and was second in sacks (5) and pressures (35) for the Cowboys, but he only recorded one sack after Week 3.
With the offseason now in full swing, Smith's future in Dallas is unknown as he's set to be a free agent, and a few factors could make him expendable. Randy Gregory picked right back up where he left off in 2018 after missing all of last season with an indefinite suspension. Dorance Armstrong more than doubled his production from 2019. Rookie Bradlee Anae didn't see the field much, however, his potential can't be overlooked.
There is one person who wouldn't mind seeing Smith back in Dallas. A few weeks ago, Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones said Smith can use his 2020 performance as a building block going forward.
“It's inspirational to see a man like Aldon Smith have the comeback here that he had,” Jerry Jones said, via the team's website. “He played some outstanding football for us. He certainly was more positive than not, and I think he can take this year and build on it, and we want him to build on it to the benefit of the Cowboys.”
Scoop and score for 5️⃣8️⃣
📺 #DALvsCIN on FOX pic.twitter.com/1sLs2pAV2I
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) December 13, 2020
DeMarcus Lawrence and Gregory will likely be the starting duo at defensive end in 2021. You can never have enough bodies to get after the quarterback though, and Smith can rush not only from the edge but also inside, as he showed once Gregory hit his stride.
I say that the Cowboys should bring Smith back next season. If he is to return, it'll likely be on a one-year incentive-based deal.
Seeing Smith turned his life around and get back to terrorizing quarterbacks was one of the NFL's feel-good stories of 2020. Was his performance good enough for another round with the Cowboys? We'll know in the next few months.