Before Aldon Smith and/or Randy Gregory play football, the suspended Dallas Cowboys defenders must first tackle the waiting game.
Addressing their potential NFL reinstatement, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones revealed Friday that Smith has met with commissioner Roger Goodell, though Gregory’s status is entirely up in the air as Dallas is kept in the dark.
“We haven’t heard anything,” Jones told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. “I do know for sure Aldon has been in front of the Commissioner. He’s waiting to hear back. I think Randy may or — I’m not exactly sure where that is. Sometimes we’re not privy to that. We’re not sure when we’ll hear something. Obviously, the league is looking out for their best interest. As men off the field and certainly that’s what’s first and foremost and the priority is how they’re coming off the field. If ultimately they get to a point which we think they can that Roger [Goodell] feels like they can come back to work and play football and that’s in their best interest in addition to what they need off the field, then certainly we’ll welcome them back and go to work.”
At last check, neither Smith nor Gregory were expected to hear a ruling on their football fates until the NFL Draft concluded. It’s been two weeks since that event took place, and still radio silence out of Park Avenue.
There was optimism that Gregory’s request would be granted after the league toned down punishment for marijuana-related offenses in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Consistently disciplined by Goodell due to such 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 2019, the Cowboys extended Gregory’s contract through 2020. This past February, he officially filed for his return to the sport, “hopeful” of suiting up this upcoming season.
But, judging by Jones’ remarks, Gregory appears no closer to coming back than Smith, a repeat violater of the substance-abuse policy who joined Dallas this offseason amid a half-decade-long indefinite ban.
“Well, it’s just now getting implemented with the new CBA,” Jones told Florio. “So we’ll see as we move forward. I know Roger his staff are getting their hands around it. . . . I think at the end of the day we’re gonna have something here that’s in the best interest for the players. All the things that you’re speaking of are going to be taken into account. As we move forward we’ll have a much better feel for how this is gonna work.”
Smith has financial incentive to play, and play well. His one-year, $4 million Cowboys 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.
That Smith and Gregory remain in a holding pattern had little effect on the Cowboys’ offseason. Following the free-agent defections of defensive end Robert Quinn (Bears) and defensive tackle Maliek Collins (Raiders), the team brought in DL Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, spent a fifth-round pick on edge rusher Bradlee Anae, and are expected to re-sign starting nose tackle Antwaun Woods.
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New Cowboys QB Reminds Stephen Jones of Tony Romo
For a seventh-round draft pick likely ticketed for the practice squad, Cowboys rookie quarterback Ben DiNucci’s future could look worse. His coach sees a potential incarnation of former Pro Bowler Marc Bulger, which in itself is a stretch. And his boss likened DiNucci to franchise legend Tony Romo, which is … something else.
“(McCarthy) said he’s a baller. He’s very athletic. Certainly no one is saying he is, but if you remember, Tony Romo was a college free agent,” Stephen Jones said Friday on SiriusXM NFL Radio, per The Athletic. “(Ben) has some of those type of tools, instinctive and seems to make plays.”
DiNucci, suffice to say, has a ways to go. The one-time Pitt passer finished his JMU tenure with 5,716 yards, 46 TDs, and 18 interceptions across 29 games. He saved his best for last, completing 70-percent of his attempts in 2019 for 3,441 yards, 29 scores, and only six picks, earning AFCA First Team All-American honors.
Although accurate and capable of using his legs, DiNucci’s physical limitations cap his upside as a No. 3 QB at the professional level. Such is the reason he nearly went undrafted and probably would have if McCarthy’s brother wasn’t DiNucci’s eighth-grade basketball coach.
With Cooper Rush no longer in the building, DiNucci will absorb the entirety of third-string “reps” behind Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton during the club’s virtual offseason program and, if applicable, training camp. Then Dallas assuredly will waive DiNucci around final cuts and attempt to bring him back to the taxi squad, where he’ll continue his development, barring the unforeseen.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL