Timing is everything.
On Friday, the NFL announced that Cowboys second-year defensive end Randy Gregory would be suspended for the first four games of the NFL season for failing his fourth drug test since leaving the University of Nebraska. On Monday, via CowboysHQ's own Mike Fisher premium exclusive, the Cowboys brass has let it be known publicly that the club will not be bringing back the problematic pass rusher for a second season.
All of a sudden, there is a gaping hole in the Cowboys depth chart. Fortunately, this is the exact right time for that hole to be noticed, and the Cowboys front office knows it.
While the nation's eyes will be watching the incoming rookie class for the next week at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the foundation for deals are being layed under the radar. Agents of NFL edge rushers who are free agents for 2016, just got two huge signs that there is a starting job available for them in Dallas. Possibly, a multiple year starting job has opened up.
Numerous things go into a free agent's decision to negotiate with a ball club, and there are different considerations for everyone. Before the events of the last four days, any potential free agent could have had a bit of pause about what kind of situation they'd be getting themselves into if they were to negotiate with Dallas. At the very least, the club indicating they would not be persuing Hardy means that there would be one less competitor for the spot in Dallas. Teams can easily leverage one negotiation with another and at some level, an agent would be concerned his client was being brought into this kind of environment. Now, however, there's no Hardy who their client might be setting the market for; at least not in Dallas.
Gregory's suspension, and the Hardy news, might lead some to believe that this increases Dallas' chance at drafting a defensive end with the fourth overall pick in April's draft. However, NFL teams are well aware of the reality that rookie pass rushers rarely make a big impact on a team, and this class is devoid of the caliber of player to take that high. Joey Bosa, the consensus best DE available, seems more of a left defensive end then one that has the quick twitch and bend to be a 15 sack-a-year guy that warrants this high of a selection. Noah Spence has that athletic ability, but has red flags from his dismissal from Ohio State due to drug violations.
These recent events seem to lead Dallas to the path of securing help for emerging star Demarcus Lawrence in the free agent realm. Randy Gregory's multiple violations within a year call into serious question how available he'll be for the team moving forward. It's possible the club was already only looking at him as a situational rusher based on his strength and weight. They also obviously were aware of his prior test failures; just because it's a surprise to the public, it wasn't a shock to the club. They will need someone reliable.
Which, with Dallas' ability to create nearly $50 million total of cap space as CowboysHQ broke down in detail, should be music to the ears of the agents for Olivier Vernon, Mario Williams and this group of edge rushing free agents. But Dallas needs to spend wisely, and is already making those sort of difficult decisions as this defense gets built. Example? Read Fish's scoop on Dallas' rather surprising view of middle linebacker James Laurinaitis.