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Why The Cowboys’ Response To Randy Gregory’s Latest Trouble May Be Pretty Much Nothing

There is a lot of evidence that the team will go into training camp to see what they have on hand with pass rushers before they make any attempts to look at free agents.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There are many reasons to be so glad that the Dallas Cowboys are flying to Oxnard for the opening of training camp this week. But in addition to all the normal ones, there is an extra thing to make us long for camp to get here: Maybe it will stop the seemingly endless string of negative news about the team.

The latest, of course, is that Randy Gregory has apparently failed another drug test and is facing a longer suspension than the four games already set . Under the current league policy, this failure should result in a ten-game suspension. It is unclear at the moment if that will replace the four-game suspension, or be added on to make it 14 games he will sit out, effectively eliminating an entire season. Either way, it looks like he is being considered gone for the year.

With the myriad questions already existing about the pass rush, the next one becomes "What do the Cowboys do now?" As several have pointed out, Dwight Freeney is still available if the team acts quickly. For that matter, Greg Hardy is also still a free agent, but all indications are that he is completely out of the picture as far as the Cowboys are concerned.

However, there is another answer to that question that is probably more likely, and it is this. They do nothing, standing pat with what they have to start camp.

Before going on, let me make clear that this is not an attempt to justify or denigrate that approach. It is more an attempt to outline what seems to be the approach the team is taking with the defensive line, based on what we have seen so far this year.

The suspension of Gregory changes nothing about the first four games, since he was already not available for them. The Cowboys are perceived to have not done enough to address the pass rush, but they did do several things in the offseason. They signed defensive end Benson Mayowa and defensive tackle Cedric Thornton, as well as re-signing Jack Crawford, who has been used in both positions in the past. They used a third-round pick to draft tackle Maliek Collins and a fourth-round selection to get end Charles Tapper. And they have tackle Terrell McClain returning from injury. That is six new or returning players. Many feel these moves were inadequate, but the team must disagree, since this is how they have proceeded. It is reasonable to assume that the staff feels better about the talent on hand than so many of the fans and media do. That may reveal that they have a different evaluation of the players based on their much more intimate view of them. Or it may be a case of having false or inflated hopes. Nonetheless, the evidence strongly supports a greater level of comfort with the current resources than those outside the team have.

Further, the Cowboys have in recent years made moves in the latter stages of the preseason to shore up weaknesses. The strategy seems to be evaluate what you have first, then look for more help if it is deemed necessary. Obviously, that comes with the risk of having less options, something that is already in play. To use Freeney as an example, there are already reports of other teams considering him, and there is a real chance that he will be off the table by the time Dallas might decide it is time to take further steps. However, there are also indications that Freeney is not exactly fired up to jump into the training camp grind at his age. He may want to wait until closer to the season to commit to a team. It is possible that he has made this known through his agent, and could even have stated a window when he is prepared to seriously consider contract offers. That is speculative, but also not incongruous with the known facts. There are also other pass rushers that might become available later. Waiting for such castoffs when teams start to cut their rosters down clearly comes with its own risks, but the Cowboys favor bargain shopping, and have had some success in recent years getting help that way. Still, the team is betting on finding more answers from the players they already have than from outside. It will probably take at least the first two preseason games to find out if they blew that wager or not.

Dallas could still make a surprise signing, but that seems the less likely course at the moment. There is also the question of just how much of a surprise the additional suspension for Gregory is. Teams often have a better idea about such things than they let on, especially if the league has not made any official determination. There is no real reason to reveal a potential problem facing them. NFL teams prefer to maintain as much of a curtain to conceal things as possible, and the Cowboys are no exception. The additional suspension may have been factored into their decisions to date already. While we may disagree with how they have addressed things, we should not assume it was done without some idea of what they were facing with Gregory.

Now the player is entering rehab to try and get a handle on his own life, which is more important in the grand scheme of things than playing football. Dallas certainly needs to reevaluate their often-failed policy of drafting troubled players with the expectation that they can get them through their difficulties. That has blown up too often lately, and it needs to change.

But the die has already been cast with Gregory, and now the Cowboys have to see what solutions they can manage in training camp. While they still may look to the contracting free agent pool for help, that is not likely to happen soon. It is not impossible, of course, but it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards, based on all we have seen from the front office in recent years.

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