Dallas Cowboys: Signing Aldon Smith is a low risk, high reward gamble

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 25: Aldon Smith #99 of the Oakland Raiders comes off the line during the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 25, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 25: Aldon Smith #99 of the Oakland Raiders comes off the line during the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 25, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed defensive end Aldon Smith to a one-year deal. Despite him not playing in four years, he could be a great signing.

Nine years ago, the Dallas Cowboys expressed interest in drafting Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith in the 2011 NFL Draft. Considered a mid-late first round pick, Smith had drawn comparisons to DeMarcus Ware and the Cowboys were hoping to pair him with the star pass rusher. What a combination that would’ve been.

Unfortunately, that vision never came to fruition. Aldon Smith ended up going to the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 7 overall pick while the Cowboys, with the No. 9 pick, drafted offensive tackle Tyron Smith; not a bad “consolation” prize at all.

Why is any of this relevant? Because on Wednesday, it was reported that the Cowboys were signing Aldon Smith to a one-year deal worth up to $4 million. Smith shared the news on his own Instagram, confirming he had signed a deal to become a Cowboy.

The excitement surrounding this signing is tempered by Smith’s troubled past. While incredibly talented on the field, his time in the league was cut short due to repeated violations of the NFL’s substance abuse and personal conduct policies.

Smith hasn’t played a down of professional football since November 2015 when he was suspended a year due to a hit-and-run incident. Although he applied for reinstatement in October 2016, it was never granted and he sat out the 2016 and 2017 NFL seasons. He hadn’t signed with a team since being released from the Raiders in March 2018.

But Jerry Jones loves to gamble and take risks on players with troubled pasts. He’s done it with Rolando McClain, Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, Adam “Pacman” Jones, Dez Bryant and even Charles Haley.

Not all of these gambles have worked out for the Cowboys. In fact, only Charles Haley, who the Cowboys traded for in 1992, helped the organization win Super Bowls. But here we are in 2020 with Jones once again taking a risk. This time, I think it’s a smart one.

Having lost Robert Quinn to free agency (he just signed with the Chicago Bears), the Cowboys needed someone to replace the All-Pro pass rusher who tallied 11.5 sacks last year. Aldon Smith, a former Pro Bowler and Defensive Rookie of the Year (by Pro Football Writers of America) can be that guy.

In his five seasons in the NFL (2011-2015) — three of which were cut short due to suspensions — Smith tallied 47.5 sacks in just 59 total games, only 37 of which he started in. As a rookie, he recorded 14 sacks. His best season was his sophomore year when he started all 16 games for the 49ers and totaled 66 tackles and 19.5 sacks with three forced fumbles. As detailed by NFL Insider Field Yates, Smith’s 42 sacks in the first three seasons of his career are the third most by any player in NFL history.

It’s clear that Aldon Smith had talent. At 30-years-old, Smith is still relatively young. Even if he’s lost a step in his time away from the game, there’s a chance he could still provide the Cowboys with some much-needed pass rushing presence.

More importantly, Aldon Smith can be that guy at a relatively cheap price for the cash-strapped Cowboys. He signed a team friendly contract with just a $2 million base value. The other $2 million comes in sack incentives.

If he plays up to his former potential, then this would be an absolute steal for the Dallas Cowboys. If it’s a swing-and-a-miss, well, then it’s not the end of the world for the team. It’s a very low risk, high reward signing for Dallas — the kind of deal we’ve come to expect from Jerry Jones.

Smith will bolster a line that has been completely revamped from last season with newcomers Gerald McCoy and and Dontari Poe also signing this offseason. Also hopefully returning this season is Randy Gregory, another talented pass rusher who was suspended indefinitely in February 2019 and has begun the reinstatement process.

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Smith’s signing with Dallas reconnects him with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, who coached him during his best two seasons in San Francisco, so there’s some big potential here. If Smith is indeed clean and sober and hungry to return to field, he could be one of the more exciting players to watch on this Dallas defense.