We are inching closer and closer to free agency in the National Football League and with it the inevitable disappointment that the Dallas Cowboys did not do what we want them to.
Perhaps the thing you are yearning for America’s Team to accomplish most is bringing in a certain outside free agent (never gonna happen). Maybe you want them to re-sign a player that is on an expiring deal (not like there’s an important one that they have yet to take care of). You likely have a long list.
On the subject of retaining players there are definitely a few that the Cowboys will need to take care of. Some are more obvious than others, but one is a bit unique.
Should the Cowboys bring back Aldon Smith?
How important is it for the Dallas Cowboys to re-sign Aldon Smith this offseason?
A year ago the Cowboys said goodbye to edge rusher Robert Quinn. Dallas pulled off an impressive front office move by sending a sixth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins in order to land Quinn and, after seeing him have double-digit sacks for them in 2019, saw him net a huge contract from the Chicago Bears that is likely going to earn them a compensatory pick this offseason.
What’s more is that the Cowboys supplemented their loss by signing Aldon Smith last year. Smith hadn’t played NFL football in five years and came on strong for Dallas early on in the season.
Smith played so well early on in the season that the Seattle Seahawks were reportedly interested in trading for him. Dallas said no, reportedly partly because of the history between the two teams when it has come to trade talks, and kept Aldon for the duration of the one-year deal that he signed with them last April.
In hindsight it may have been wise of the Cowboys to move on from Aldon when a suitor emerged. After all, they had done the impossible in finding a player five years removed from the game that was playing at a high level. It made sense to cash out. Unfortunately Aldon’s play didn’t sustain itself at too high of a level across the season. Dallas may have gotten a pick in return for him then, and even if they do get a compensatory one for him (assuming he signs elsewhere this offseason) it won’t come until next year.
Should the Cowboys let Aldon go elsewhere this offseason, though? They are set on one side of the line in DeMarcus Lawrence and have a similar return story on the other in Randy Gregory. Aldon would certainly provide depth, although he would also likely impact the available snaps for Bradlee Anae. If he’s talented though he deserves it.
This week PFF ranked NFL teams that are most likely to improve in 2021 and had the Cowboys third. Much of their reasoning was based on the team re-signing Dak Prescott this offseason (and obviously him staying healthy). They had a to-do list for the team in the coming months and interestingly had bringing Aldon Smith back among the top priorities:
After the dust settles on Prescott’s contract, there’s not going to be much Dallas can do in free agency. It would be wise to bring back edge rusher Aldon Smith. After a four-year hiatus, Smith returned to the NFL field and played extremely well given the circumstances with a 70.0 pass-rush grade (34th at the position) and 16% win rate (24th).
As for the draft, Dallas is in a great spot to secure PFF’s CB1, Caleb Farley. He has all the physical tools one could want in an outside corner — with his trump card arguably being his blazing speed — and displayed a true lockdown season in his final year at the collegiate level. Before opting out of the 2020 season, Farley allowed one or fewer catches in seven of his 11 starts in 2019 while intercepting four passes and breaking up nine, leading to a 26.8 passer rating allowed and 90.5 coverage grade.
Retaining Aldon trailed only locking down Prescott on this list of objectives (drafting Caleb Farley was third as you can see). Would you say that re-signing Aldon Smith is the second-most important thing that the Cowboys need to do this offseason?
In looking at the list of soon-to-be Cowboys free agents that we shared above, it is definitely arguable that Aldon is the second-most important one. There will be a need to either return or bring in new veteran depth at cornerback and as always it would be nice if the team spent something serious at safety or defensive tackle (Gerald McCoy returning is still an option as well).
Ultimately the Cowboys do indeed have Lawrence, Gregory, and Anae to lean on as far as edge rushers are concerned (don’t forget about Dorance Armstrong either, says Jerry Jones). Aldon will turn 32 at the season’s beginning and might hold a higher standard of play for a longer period of time after having a season back in the game last year.
The risk might be small for the Cowboys, but we have seen that they do not like to mess with their side of the compensatory pick formula too much. Conventional wisdom says that they let Aldon walk, but should they?