Aldon Smith is waiting to learn his NFL fate as commissioner Roger Goodell mulls whether to reinstate the long-suspended pass-rusher.
Unfortunately for Smith, the newest member of the Dallas Cowboys, he won’t get an answer any time soon.
ESPN’s Ed Werder reported Wednesday that Goodell is not expected to rule on Smith’s request, as well as that of suspended Dallas defensive end Randy Gregory, until after next week’s draft, which runs from April 23-25.
Once-upon-a-time a premier edge defender and former No. 7 overall draft pick, Smith spiraled out of the league in 2016 following a string of arrests, issues with alcoholism, domestic violence allegations, and disturbing off-field incidents. Banned indefinitely over almost a half-decade, a repeated violater of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, the ex-49er and Raider has since turned his life around and, with the help of FOX Sports insider Jay Glazer, aims to reassimilate into the pros.
Smith has incentive to play, and play well. His $4 million pact is really a $2 million agreement; the other half is available via unlockable incentives.
According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, Smith has a $910,000 base salary for 2020 and will earn $40,625 each time he’s on the active gameday roster — $650,000 in total. He has additional sack escalators built into his contract; $500,000 for eight, $1 million for 10, $1.5 million for 12, and $2 million for 14.
For his star-crossed career, Smith’s totaled 47.5 sacks across 59 games, spread between Oakland and San Francisco. His best year came in 2012 when Smith tallied 19.5 sacks, an exceptional encore after a 14-sack rookie debut.
Nearly all of the aforementioned applies to Gregory, the Cowboys’ 2015 second-round pick. Consistently punished by Goodell after ongoing infractions, Gregory posted an out-of-nowhere six-sack 2018 campaign before once again running into trouble. In February 2019, he was suspended indefinitely for breaking the substance-abuse policy and the terms of his conditional reinstatement.
In April of 2019, the Cowboys extended Gregory’s contract through 2020. This past February, he officially filed for his return to the NFL. Gregory told NFL Network’s Jane Slater he’s “hopeful” of playing for the club this upcoming season.
The tenuously prominent belief is that Goodell will at least reinstate Gregory, as the revised Collective Bargaining Agreement relaxed punishment on marijuana-related offenses, no longer suspending for positive tests.
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What this Means
For one, it obviously doesn’t help either player. The sooner they potentially get cleared, the sooner their iPads arrive in the mail, complete with the team’s playbooks. After prolonged inactivity, it behooves the veterans to dive into Dallas’ defensive terminology as soon as possible, making them part of the virtual offseason program.
For two, it doesn’t help the Cowboys, who hold the No. 17 overall draft pick. They’re eyeing pass-rushing prospects such as LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson but have holes throughout the roster — in the secondary, at center and tight end, and along the linebacker corps.
Knowing Smith and Gregory’s fate one way or another could have Jerry Jones and the Dallas brain-trust pinpoint the direction of their Day 1 selection. Perhaps, with Smith and/or Gregory on board, they might’ve shifted focus to a corner like Florida’s CJ Henderson or LSU’s Kristian Fulton, both of whom held virtual interviews with the team.
Keeping each party in the dark doesn’t do anyone any good. Then again, it’s pretty on-brand for The Shield.
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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL