Mike McCarthy Just Kept the Door Open for the Dallas Cowboys to Bring Back Last Year’s $2 Million Surprise

Mike McCarthy had a difficult first season as the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach in 2020. Not only did he see his starting quarterback go down early in the year due to injury, but the team struggled throughout the entire season, going 6-10 overall. However, one player was a pleasant surprise for Dallas. That player was pass-rusher Aldon Smith, who had not played in the NFL since the 2015 season.

Recent reports, though, suggested that the Cowboys and Smith could part ways this offseason. However, coach McCarthy just kept the door for him to still possibly return open.

Reports suggested that the Dallas Cowboys plan to part ways with Aldon Smith

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After reportedly signing a one-year, $2 million contract with the Cowboys for the 2020 season, and having the potential of earning up to $4 million with incentives, reports recently suggested that Aldon Smith could be done in Dallas after one year.

ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio reported that, per multiple reports, Dallas informed Smith — a free agent — that he would not return to the team for the 2021 season.

The Cowboys also signed Tarell Basham this offseason. Basham had 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 16 games and nine starts with the New York Jets in 2020. So, if the reports about Smith not returning weren’t enough, it appears that the Cowboys may have already signed his replacement in Basham.

However, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy just kept the door for Aldon Smith to return open.

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy isn’t closing the door on him coming back

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Despite all the recent reports about Aldon Smith, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said the situation is “still fluid,” according to the Cowboys’ team site.

“I personally haven’t moved on (from Smith),” McCarthy said this week, according to DallasCowboys.com. “I was in a conversation yesterday about Aldon. So we’ll see how that works out moving forward.”

Well, that just made things interesting.

So, could Aldon Smith actually return to the Dallas Cowboys in 2021? That’s unclear right now, but the Cowboys could certainly use his services.

Aldon Smith is coming off a nice 2020 season

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After being involved in multiple off-field issues, Aldon Smith was suspended for four seasons from 2016 through 2019. So, he hadn’t actually played football in almost five years before playing last season. Because of this, expectations for Smith certainly weren’t too high.

Smith, however, still started the 2020 season strong for the Cowboys. He began the year with four sacks in the first three weeks of the season, but only finished with five sacks in 16 games. Smith hadn’t played that many games since 2012, though, so it’s reasonable to wonder if fatigue potentially played a role in his numbers dropping off as the season went on.

Although he didn’t finish the year strong, Smith still ranked second on the team in total sacks. He also led the Cowboys in QB hits and finished second in QB pressures. That’s pretty good after not playing for nearly five years.

Whether the team brings him back or not, Dallas can certainly use as much help as it can get in 2021. The Cowboys’ defense gave up an atrocious 29.6 points per game in 2020. It also ranked in the bottom half of the league in team sacks and QB pressures. Sure, Randy Gregory played well toward the end of the season, and, yes, the Cowboys recently signed Basham. But Smith could still help the defense significantly — especially if he can eventually return to peak form.

Smith had an excellent start to his career, racking up 14 sacks in his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. He then recorded 19.5 sacks in 2012 before getting 8.5 in 11 games in 2013. No, he wasn’t as dominant with the Cowboys as he was back then, but maybe a full offseason can help him get there.

Right now, it’s unclear what’s in store for Aldon Smith’s future. Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, though, isn’t closing the door on a possible return just yet.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference