Randy Gregory made his return to the NFL in a triumphant way in 2018 and it seemed as if things were starting to really look up for the troubled defensive end. But on Tuesday it was announced that Gregory was going to receive yet another suspension.
The embattled Dallas Cowboys defensive end was suspended indefinitely Tuesday for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and the terms of his conditional reinstatement, the team announced.
This is Gregory’s fourth suspension since being selected by Dallas in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Gregory was cleared and reinstated in July 2018 following a year-long suspension in 2017. He was also banned twice for 14 total games in 2016 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
The suspension that Randy Gregory received Tuesday seemed like the final nail in the coffin for the defensive end, largely because of the phrase “indefinitely suspended.” But as it turns out, the suspension may not be as ominous as it sounds.
According to a Cowboys source, Gregory “can come back for 2019 if he does the right stuff kind of like he did last year.”
His attorney Daniel Moskowitz certainly sounded hopeful and confident that Gregory can get things together and be reinstated for the 2019 season.
It must be noted that an indefinite ban is not a permanent ban or a season-long ban.
“This is a process,” Moskowitz said. “I hope people recognize this is a private personal matter. We are going to get through this. His confidence is unwavering. He is going to do what he has to do.”
Going into the offseason, it seemed as if the Cowboys were set at defensive end with DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory as their top two pass rushers. Now that Gregory has been suspended and his status is up in the air, what impact will that have on the team as free agency and the draft loom.
Complicating things is the lack of a first-round pick, and only having six overall selections to work with. There are multiple other needs to deal with, such as defensive tackle, tight end, running back, wide receiver, safety, and swing tackle. There just aren’t enough draft resources to even try to address all of them.
That means that the team will be forced into the free agent market, where they have been notoriously parsimonious. That may have to change.
One of the Cowboys’ needs going into the offseason was the tight end position despite the encouraging play of both Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz down the stretch in 2018. While there are several talented tight ends in the draft, Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert is expected to draw a lot of interest from Dallas.
Jaylon Smith tweeted him an eyeballs emoji and he liked it, which means Eifert will definitely end up playing for the Cowboys, right?
That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.
Nothing stokes the flames of free agency like one player recruiting another, and you can pour some additional kerosene on the fire by way of Eifert being the brother-in-law to Cowboys’ All-Pro guard Zack Martin. None of those things will be negotiating tools should the Cowboys opt to pursue Eifert, but it does appear to be in their plans to do so. The team has already begun doing their “homework” on the pro bowler, according to Bobby Belt of NFL Network, and will undoubtedly reach out to Eifert to get a feel for his asking price. What they won’t do is pay him commensurate with the numbers he achieved way back in 2015, however, especially seeing as he’s suffered from injuries that have derailed his last three seasons — playing in just 14 games and having only four starts in the process.
While Tyler Eifert might be someone the Cowboys look at in free agency, his injury history makes him anything but a safe bet. According to NFL draft insider Jared Tokarz, the Cowboys have begun looking heavily at Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger as a possible target in the draft.
Can confirm that the Dallas #Cowboys have been inquiring heavily about Jace Sternberger TE Texas AM.— Jared Tokarz (@NFLDraftInsider) February 26, 2019
It’s well known by now that the Cowboys won’t have a first round draft pick this year due to the trade they made for Amari Cooper midway through the 2018 season, but now we know what Stephen Jones and the rest of the Cowboys brass will be doing when the Raiders use Dallas’ draft selection on draft night.
On Tuesday, Stephen Jones arrived in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine and met with media.
Asked about his team not having a first-round pick this season - the Cowboys traded their first to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for receiver Amari Cooper in October - Jones gave a very Jones-family answer:
“When the Raiders pick with our pick, we’ll be watching Amari highlight tape,” he said.
Cooper totaled 53 catches for a team-high 725 yards and six touchdowns in just nine regular-season games with Dallas.
The Cowboys have several players with expiring contracts that they’re trying to keep this offseason, but they are also focusing on getting an extension done for Ezekiel Elliott as well. As one of the NFL’s very best running backs, Dallas knows they’ll have to give him a lot of money to get a deal done.
Elliott is headed into the fourth year of his rookie deal and the team will almost certainly exercise their fifth-year option unless an extension is reached before that kicks in. On Tuesday, Jones said that the team knows that the four-year, $60 million extension that Todd Gurley signed with the Rams last year set the bar for where talks with Elliott will begin and that the team has taken that into account when setting budgets.
“We’ve got it budgeted that we’re going to pay Zeke a significant contract at some point. … We certainly saw what Gurley got paid and we know that’s probably where it starts, and we’ll go from there,” Jones said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News.
Figuring out a contract extension for Ezekiel Elliott isn’t the only aspect of contractual forward-thinking the Cowboys need to do right now. Dak Prescott will also command a big deal soon, and head coach Jason Garrett will be in need of a new contract after the 2019 season if things go well.
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is obviously a top priority because he doesn’t currently have a contract, but Jones was asked plenty of questions about Dak Prescott. The Cowboys’ quarterback technically has another year remaining on his rookie deal, but Jones agreed it’s fair to say the Cowboys would prefer to extend his contract this offseason. Asked why, Jones was fairly straightforward. “You look at a quarterback who’s had the success he’s had – he’s started since Day 1, he’s a fourth-round draft pick,” he said. “You can imagine, I’m sure what Dak is thinking too. He’s the leader of the football team, as most quarterbacks are. He’s done everything the right way, and I think he deserves to have his contract looked at in a very progressive way.”
Asked about head coach Jason Garrett entering the final year of his contract, Jones pointed out that the team has been in this position before with Garrett. In 2014, the Cowboys won the NFC East and Garrett received a new five-year deal. “No one wants Jason to be around here for the long term more than the Jones family,” he said. “No one thinks more of him than we do. But at the same time, I know he uses it (the phrase) – ‘everybody’s back is against the wall right now.’ We’ve got a really good young team. We’ve got high expectations for this young team. And everybody, from Jason to his staff, to our players, to ownership, to the organization, feels the pressure to take the next step. Our fans deserve that.”