While it has slowed down considerably, free agency is still ongoing throughout the National Football League. So far the Dallas Cowboys haven’t done a whole heck of a lot besides locking up Dak Prescott. Sure they have brought in some depth for their defensive line and landed Keanu Neal. But this was one of the worst defenses in the NFL last year and in order to properly fix that they are going to need more than a new defensive coordinator in Dan Quinn.
One of the lone bright spots for a brief time on the defense this past season was the re-emergence of pass rusher Aldon Smith. The Cowboys signed Smith to a one-year deal in 2020, on April Fools Day of all days, five years after he had last played in an NFL game.
It was reported on Wednesday that the Cowboys will not be bringing Smith back for the 2021 season. It will be interesting to see where he goes next, but one thing is for certain now, the Cowboys might have messed up by not moving him when they had an opportunity to do so.
The Dallas Cowboys may have been shortsighted by not trading Aldon Smith when the Seattle Seahawks called
Let’s rewind the clock a bit and go back to October of 2020. It was a painful month, but that’s where this story took an interesting twist.
In the final week of the month the Dallas Cowboys were doing a bit of housecleaning. They had already traded Everson Griffen to the Detroit Lions and released both Dontari Poe and Daryl Worley. The hope was obviously that the defense would play better without these people eating up snaps.
Moving on from Griffen was a quick admission of failure by the Cowboys and one that they deserve credit for. They signed him in the middle of training camp and thought things would really work out. Thankfully they were able to salvage a sixth-round pick out of the whole ordeal, that is the proper way to team build and hedge your bets.
What we are here today to talk about now is the move that Dallas didn’t make and that is trading away Aldon Smith. On Halloween of last year, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that the Seattle Seahawks had called them about their reclamation project.
From @gmfb Weekend: The #Cowboys have parted ways with a few defensive players but one guy they refused to trade when teams called recently was Aldon Smith, whose career resurgence should eventually lead to a longer-term deal with Dallas. pic.twitter.com/eMiiaOlrAn— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) October 31, 2020
Full perspective here demands that we remember how Aldon Smith was one of the better defenders on the team at the time of this report, heck he was arguably their best player.
We also have the benefit of hindsight in the here and now and therefore know that Smith did not continue the pace that he was on over the course of the rest of the season. Getting something for him in October, anything, would be better than the actual result which is now nothing.
Obviously it is possible that the Cowboys could net a compensatory pick for Aldon Smith if things break the right way, but that seems impractical. While the Seahawks likely weren’t offering much for him in October it should be said that the Cowboys were playing with some house money in terms of Smith.
He hadn’t played in the NFL in five years and the Cowboys were getting trade calls about him. There are a lot of poker players who would have chosen to cash out right then as opposed to playing on until the sun came up.
It is possible that some of this had to do with the fact that it was the Seattle Seahawks who were calling about Smith. The Cowboys have historically not been able to broker trades involving players with Seattle (remember the Earl Thomas days?!) and these tweets from NFL Network’s Jane Slater intimate the idea that Dallas did not want to comply with them specifically.
Hindsight is obviously 20/20, but there was legitimate logic to trading Aldon Smith when the Cowboys got calls about him in the fall. This is even more true when you consider that at the time of the report that Dak Prescott had already been lost for the season due to injury, and while the Cowboys remained somewhat competitive in the NFC East over the following months, they weren’t seriously going to win a championship. Packing up and preparing for 2021 made sense as evidenced by Dallas moving on from Griffen, Poe, and Worley.