Former All-Pro defensive end/linebacker Aldon Smith, who played five mostly productive seasons for the San Francisco 49ers and the team then known as the Oakland Raiders from 2011 through 2015, appears to be headed back to the NFL after agreeing to a contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
As cited by NBC Sports Bay Area, Fox’s Jay Glazer was the first to report on the deal on Wednesday night, tweeting that Smith agreed to a one-year contract with the Cowboys. This was later backed up by a separate tweet from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, who noted that the deal will pay the one-time Pro Bowler $4 million in the 2020 upcoming season. He also opined that Smith’s prospective return to the NFL after a four-season absence makes for a “true comeback story.”
Later that night, Smith took to Instagram, sharing a photo of himself signing a contract and noting in the caption that he’s “blessed” to be joining the Cowboys. His update also included a brief statement in the second photo, where he talked about the challenges he has faced and the steps he has taken “towards [sic] becoming a better man.”
After being selected by the 49ers with the seventh overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Smith enjoyed immediate success in the pros, tallying 44.0 sacks in his first four seasons in the league. His time in San Francisco, however, was cut short by multiple personal conduct, substance abuse, and legal issues, as he then moved on to the Raiders, where he played just nine games in the 2015 season, tallying 3.5 sacks for his new team.
As recalled by ESPN, Smith was released by the Raiders in 2018 — more than two years after he played his last game — after he was arrested on charges of domestic violence, assault, and false imprisonment.
At 30 years old, Smith may still be young enough to make a successful NFL comeback. But given his past issues, his contract with the Cowboys will reportedly depend on whether the NFL reinstates him from the indefinite ban he was given for repeated substance abuse policy violations. This, as noted by NBC Sports Bay Area, would require Smith to provide clean drug test results, among other types of evidence that could back up his “prolonged avoidance of substance abuse.”
According to ESPN, Smith is far from the only player with a “difficult” past whom Jerry Jones has taken a chance on during his time as the Cowboys’ owner and general manager. His presence, as pointed out, could help Dallas address its pass-rushing issues, considering how last year’s team leader in sacks, defensive end Robert Quinn, recently signed with the Chicago Bears as a free agent.