Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory has had a turbulent NFL career, having been suspended four times since he turned pro in 2015. Shortly after his latest reinstatement in September, Dallas showed some faith in the Nebraska product by extending his contract through 2021, giving him a $200K signing bonus and a chance to earn up to $2.1MM next season.
And as Jon Machota of The Athletic writes, the Cowboys’ faith in Gregory may manifest itself in another way. Machota expects the 28-year-old to serve as the club’s starting right defensive end when Week 1 of the 2021 season rolls around.
Gregory appeared in 10 games for Dallas last season, but he did not start any of them. He managed 3.5 sacks in those 10 games, but his impact went beyond the sack total. He tallied 16 QB pressures, forced three fumbles, and received a strong 80.5 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, whose metrics also considered him a stout run defender.
Given what he was able to accomplish with only three weeks of practice following his reinstatement — and considering that he logged 40 or more snaps in only two games last year — there is reason to believe Gregory will have his long-anticipated breakout in 2021 with a full offseason of work. Plus, the Cowboys will need to get as many contributions as they can from players with modest cap hits like Gregory, since there’s a good chance the club will need to carry a $37.7MM cap charge for QB Dak Prescott on the books until at least July, if not the whole season.
Dallas will be switching from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 look under new DC Dan Quinn, so Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence will form a potentially dangerous tandem as bookends of the team’s defensive front. Because another troubled pass rusher, Aldon Smith, is a better fit in a 3-4 defense, Machota believes Smith could be looking for a new employer in March.
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