It's been quite sometime since Aldon Smith was considered the league's next best pass rusher.
Paired with Justin Smith in San Francisco, Aldon and that 49ers pass rush helped lead the team to a Super Bowl appearance back in 2012. Smith earned First Team All Pro honors that same season, tallied 33.5 sacks though his first two seasons, and the sky looked to be the limit for his career.
Then came…a lot.
Over the last few years Smith has been arrested multiple times for driving under the influence, has faced both domestic violence an weapons charges, and has been out of league for five years. But now Smith has been conditionally reinstated by the NFL, and has a second chance with the Dallas Cowboys.
The 30 year old defensive end reportedly “feels great,” and the workout videos we've seen indicate the same. As Inside The Star's Matthew Lenix pointed out recently, Smith has been speaking highly of himself heading into this season as well.
“Shape-wise I feel great. I feel great. I feel young. I feel… my twenties. I feel fresh. So I'm good on that. My weight's good. I'm a little heavier, but it's all muscle and I've been carrying it long enough and I move well, if not better” – Aldon Smith.
It's not shocking to hear a player say they're in the best shape of their life before their 30 year old season. Honestly, we hear it all the time and mostly it's a lie. But Smith has been out of the game since 2015, and likely has a chip on his shoulder to prove he can turn his life around and regain form on the football field.
Obviously, football is secondary in the Aldon Smith story. Hopefully he is a better person now than he's shown himself to be previously. But if Smith is truly healthy, and actually in the right mind and shape to play football, he could be the signing which puts the Cowboys over the top in 2020.