The Dallas Cowboys headed into this offseason with a plethora of needs that were heavily skewed towards the defensive side of the ball. The team has had a relatively quiet start to free agency but made its most significant move when it recently signed safety Keanu Neal. The 25-year old defender will reportedly play weakside linebacker for the Cowboys next year.
The organization has also seen several of its own free agents leave Dallas for other teams including cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and linebacker Joe Thomas. Those departures were partly the result of the limited cap space the team had headed into free agency. However, the Cowboys still have roughly $12 million left in cap space at the moment and plenty of needs to fill.
The team is also reportedly set to meet with several defensive free agents including safety Malik Hooker over the coming weeks. On top of interest in other free agents, the team still has a handful of important free agents of its own that are still available including edge rusher Aldon Smith.
The 31-year old veteran defender signed with Dallas on a one-year “prove-it” deal last year after a long history of off-the-field issues that derailed the career of the former All-Pro edge rusher. The former 7th overall pick then proceeded to “prove” that he still had something left in the tank after a stellar start to the 2020 season.
Smith started his career with the Dallas Cowboys by accruing an astonishing four sacks in his first three games with the team (three of which came against the Seattle Seahawks). However, after demonstrating his freak athleticism and abilities early on the veteran pass rusher seemingly faded for most of the rest of the year, only managing to get one more sack after his hot start.
Despite his struggles for much of the year the former San Francisco 49er finished his season with the second-most sacks on the team with five and tied for the most fumble recoveries with two. Obviously, those numbers are not the dominant numbers that some had hoped for from the former All-Pro, but he was still one of the better defenders on the struggling Dallas defense last year.
How much of Smith’s disappearance can be linked to the poor coaching of former Dallas defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and the lack of a true pre-season because of complications caused by COVID-19 is hard to say. However, it should be noted that the edge rusher used to put up eye-popping performances like the ones seen early last year on a regular basis early in his career.
During his first two seasons in the league, Smith managed to tally an absolutely mind-boggling 33.5 sacks and 56 quarterback hits. However, much like his year in Dallas, the remainder of his career can certainly be compared to one big disappearing act. Due in part to a myriad of off-the-field issues the veteran defender only managed to get 21 starts between 2013 and 2019 and was suspended for four of those seasons (2016-2019).
The Dallas Cowboys will be faced with an important choice this offseason regarding Aldon Smith. The team is obviously in dire need of an upgrade on the defensive side of the ball and considering the flashes of brilliance Smith demonstrated last year it would be wise of them to at least try to bring him back on a reasonable deal.