What they got instead was the status quo — to be determined.
ESPN’s Ed Werder reported Wednesday that league commissioner Roger Goodell will not decide whether to reinstate Smith and/or Gregory until after the offseason spectacle, directly impacting the team’s immediate roster plans, including who they might select with the No. 17 overall pick.
In a radio interview Friday, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones acknowledged the frustratingly dragged-out process, conceding the ball ultimately is in Goodell’s court.
“You certainly want to give them every opportunity to have success with their battles off the field and that they ultimately get to a good spot when they’re ready to take the next step and play football again,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “Certainly, our league, with the infrastructure they have in place, will certainly evaluate that and let us know where they stand at some point in time. We understand that it’s not the Cowboys timing, it’s when the NFL office and their resources that they have after they finish evaluating these gentlemen and the work that they’ve put in to get better off the field, that they’ll certainly let them know as well as us know if and when they’re going to be reinstated.”
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.
Continually punished for such infractions over the course of his young career, the Cowboys’ 2015 second-rounder 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 NFL’s 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 sport. Gregory told NFL Network’s Jane Slater he’s “hopeful” of playing for the club this upcoming season.
Smith, meanwhile, has incentive to play — and play well. His one-year, $4 million pact, signed earlier this month, is really a $2 million agreement; the other half is available via unlockable incentives, such as gameday roster bonuses and sack escalators.
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 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.
The sooner the two get cleared, if it happens at all, the sooner their iPads arrive in the mail, Dallas’ defensive playbook loaded onto them. After prolonged inactivity, it’d behoove the veterans to dive into coordinator Mike Nolan’s defensive terminology as soon as possible, coinciding with the virtual offseason program.
Delaying the impending decision, however, indisputably affects the Cowboys, who have holes in the secondary, at center and tight end, and along the linebacker corps. But they’re said to be very high on LSU defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson, a prime contender for their Day 1 pick.
If Smith and/or Gregory were denied reinstatement, the Cowboys probably pull the trigger on Chaisson. If reinstatement were granted, they may have felt confident targeting a different position such as cornerback or safety. Keeping each party in the dark doesn’t do anyone any good.
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