One commonly held belief that NFL teams seem to possess is that you can never have enough pass rushers on your roster. Every team except the Dallas Cowboys, it appears.
On Wednesday, it was reported by ESPN’s Ed Werder that the Cowboys have notified former All-Pro defensive end, Aldon Smith, that they have decided to move on from the 31-year old pass rusher (per an unnamed source) and will not re-sign him. Smith inked a one-year deal worth up to $4 million last offseason after coming off a near five-year NFL suspension for legal and substance abuse issues.
Smith isn’t the only pass rusher who played in Dallas last season that the team has opted to part ways with. In late October, the Cowboys traded defensive end, Everson Griffen, to the Detroit Lions after he posted just 2.5 sacks in seven games. Griffen ended up recording 3.5 more sacks for the Motor City, the second-highest amount on the team last year.
So what does this latest news tell us about the Cowboys and their current crop of pass rushers? Here are four things we believe this non-move indicates.
The Cowboys believe Randy Gregory can be a full-time starter
Coming off his own NFL suspension, defensive end Randy Gregory didn’t make his 2020 regular-season debut until Week Seven. The 28-year old would end up recording 21 total tackles, four tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, and 3.5 sacks in a reserve role over 10 games.
The Cowboys moving on from Smith puts Gregory squarely in the full-time role opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. The presence of Dorance Armstrong and Bradlee Anae on the depth chart also deserves a mention here.
The signing of Tarell Basham is a much bigger addition than we initially thought
Recent additions the Cowboys have made along their defensive line like Carlos Watkins and Brent Urban could also have an impact at defensive end. But the signing of Tarell Basham might be the most relevant to the team’s decision not to re-sign Smith.
Basham recorded a career-high 3.5 sacks in 2020. And it appears new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn might have a much bigger role in mind for the young defender with Aldon Smith no longer on the depth chart.
Aldon Smith’s decline was a concern
Smith got off to a terrific start coming off his long layoff from the NFL. He recorded 4.0 sacks in his first three games for the Cowboys and appeared to be returning to All-Pro form. But he only had a single sack over the team’s final 13 games.
Smith might have simply hit a physical wall without having a true offseason training program to get him back up to speed and properly aid his comeback. Apparently, the Cowboys weren’t willing to take the chance (or pay the price) to see if he could actually return to form in 2021.
Pass Rusher might be a more pressing need in the draft
The current depth chart at pass rusher appears to now include DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Tarell Basham, Dorance Armstrong, and Bradlee Anae. None of whom would preclude the Cowboys from dipping into the upcoming NFL draft to find more pass rushers. By not re-signing Aldon Smith, it could actually make the position of defensive end a higher priority on the team’s list of roster needs.