The Dallas Cowboys have had a busy offseason. Following their decisions to sign wideout Amari Cooper to a five-year, $100 million deal and apply the franchise tag to quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys made another significant move by signing defensive end Aldon Smith, who hasn't played in the NFL since 2015.
The team is prepping for the draft while working with the league on getting Smith and fellow defensive end Randy Gregory reinstated following separate suspensions for violating the policy on substances of abuse.
Stephen Jones, the Cowboys' chief operating officer and director of player personnel, addressed that process during an appearance on K&C Masterpiece on 105.3 The Fan. Asked if Smith and Gregory will be on the field for Week 1, Jones said:
"You certainly want to give them every opportunity to have success with their battles off the field and that they ultimately get to a good spot where they're ready to take the next step and play football again. Certainly our league, with the infrastructure they have in place, will certainly evaluate that and let us know where they stand at some point in time. We understand that it's not the Cowboys' timing. It's when the NFL offers their resources that they have after they finish evaluating these gentlemen and the work that they've put in to get better off the field."
If and when the league determines the two defensive ends can return to play, the Cowboys' new coaching staff under Mike McCarthy knows how it would like to incorporate them into the game plan.
Considering Dallas finished with a middling 39 sacks last season, there's an added emphasis on getting to the quarterback moving forward. The duo figure to play a prominent role in that area, as Jones noted:
"Guys like Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory are long guys who can rush the passer from that outside spot. We call it a 'Sam'/[Designated Pass Rusher] role. Traditionally with Rod [Marinelli], we used typically more just the 4-3 and the typical defensive ends with a guy like DeMarcus Lawrence and [Robert] Quinn, but I do think you could see some situations there where you are looking at a pass-rusher type that can rush the passer from, if you will, more of a Sam/DPR-type position."
Jones also discussed the Cowboys' openness to targeting a quarterback at some point in the draft.
Despite working on a long-term deal with Prescott, the team is operating under the assumption that it can't have enough talent at the position moving forward, even if that talent seldom sees the field. Jones alluded to the number of quarterbacks selected by the Green Bay Packers when McCarthy was the head coach there:
"I don't think it has anything to do with Dak's contract in terms of our interest in a quarterback. ... Mike was up in Green Bay where they continually drafted quarterbacks up there. We're always looking to get better. Obviously, we've had Cooper Rush around here going into his fourth season. He'll be free next year, so we're always looking to have a good backup situation, especially if it's a young player who can develop, come in here, and all of a sudden you have a serious resource if you're able to develop a good young quarterback. ... I think you're going down the wrong path when you equate it to Dak's situation, his contract situation."
While that may be the case for the front office, there's no question more competition at quarterback would put pressure on Prescott moving forward. Both in his contract talks and on-field performance.