The Dallas Cowboys community was taken for a spin Wednesday when the Denver Broncos released veteran pass rusher Randy Gregory.
A former second-round pick of the Cowboys in 2015, Gregory never realized his full potential in Dallas, but he managed to parlay a breakout 2021 season in which he set career-highs in sacks, pressures, QB hits and forced fumbles into a five-year contract worth $70 million and $30 million guaranteed the following offseason.
After the Cowboys tried renegotiating part of the contract's language, Gregory backed off the agreement and signed the same deal with Denver.
While off-field issues are no longer a concern with Gregory, familiar narratives plagued the 30-year-old with the Broncos; injuries and inconsistency chief among them.
Given his familiarity in the building, though, multiple prominent Cowboys personalities want the team to re-sign Gregory; akin to what the Patriots did hours before Gregory's release when they re-acquired cornerback J.C. Jackson from the LA Chargers.
Cowboys fans want Randy Gregory back after he was released by the Broncos
There's something to be said about a player returning to the team with which they enjoyed real success earlier in their career.
Jackson was arguably the top cornerback in the NFL over his final two seasons with the Patriots. He then signed a $80 million contract with the Chargers and suddenly became unplayable. So much so that he was a healthy scratch in Week 3 and didn't play a single snap in Week 4 despite being active.
While Randy was never as highly regarded as Jackson, his drop-off after spurning the Cowboys was just as glaring, even if it didn't reach the mainstream media like Jackson. He played 10 of a possible 21 games for Denver, and only had three sacks, nine quarterback hits and four tackles for loss to show for it.
Gregory's fall from grace culminated last week when he was benched for Broncos 2022 second-round pick Nik Bonitto.
All that said, there's no denying Gregory's talent and adding another capable pass rusher to the rotation would strengthen an already-elite defense.
Those are all salient points. Gregory was beloved in the locker room and enjoyed his best season as a pro in Dan Quinn's first year as defensive coordinator in 2021. As a free agent, though, Gregory can sign with any team. Why would he choose to return to Dallas, where bridges were burned, to be fourth or fifth in the DE rotation?
He's not supplanting Dorance Armstrong, who's producing at a high rate both as a pass rusher and run stuffer. Sam Williams and Dante Fowler are both playing 34% of the snaps, and Fowler had six sacks in zero starts last year as a rotation player while Gregory had six sacks in 11 starts in his best season in 2021.
Wouldn't a team like the Patriots, which will be without star pass rusher Matt Judon for the next two months, make more sense? They would allow Gregory more opportunities to pop and restore his value for a new contract.
The intrigue of adding Gregory to the mix is undeniable. You can never supply Quinn with too many chess pieces, but would he be up to going through the trouble of mending fences just to be the DE4/5?
Don't get your hopes up.