If the Dallas Cowboys were hoping to find out whether two potential defensive starters would be available this season before the draft, they might have received some bad news earlier this week. ESPN‘s Ed Werder reported that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t expected to rule on reinstatement applications from Cowboys players Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory before the draft. That could throw a wrench into the works for a team that had hoped to have a better idea of its needs for the 2020 season.
The Cowboys lost last season’s sack leader, Robert Quinn, to the Chicago Bears. When the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement signaled that the NFL was going to be going easier on those who tested positive for drugs like marijuana, Gregory filed for reinstatement, thinking Goodell would grant it quickly.
Now the team needs to figure out whether it might be worth using a draft pick to replace Quinn if Gregory won’t be there. LSU defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson is one of the prospects the front office has considered over the offseason. The Cowboys have conducted at least one virtual meeting with Chaisson so far, though a return of both Smith and Gregory might mean the team can spend a draft pick on other necessary positions.
Like Gregory, Smith is currently suspended under the league’s substance-abuse policy. While Gregory has been a repeat offender, he’s managed to get himself on the field over the last few years. Smith hasn’t played a snap in the NFL since 2015.
As KD Drummond of Cowboys Wire points out, the team shouldn’t be looking at either Gregory or Smith to be big contributors during the 2020 season. However, that doesn’t mean the Cowboys couldn’t hope one or both would overcome the odds created by their repeated suspensions.
The two players’ situations are different as well. Because of the way the league is set to handle drug offenses moving forward, it’s possible Gregory could get another violation and not be suspended ever again. Smith, because his offenses stem from drug violations but also more violent occurrences, could be a step away from another indefinite suspension.
Both players are expected to be reinstated before the season starts. Both could even benefit from the coronavirus outbreak making a specific start date to the season uncertain. Drummond says that even if both defenders’ futures are murky, knowing whether or not they will definitely be available for the start of the 2020 season would still impact how the Cowboys prepare for next week’s draft.