Nobody wants to line up against Aldon Smith in 2020. The veteran defensive end is eviscerating his opponents through the first three weeks of football, and the what is made that much more impressive by the how and the why, considering Smith hadn't taken an NFL snap since 2015 before doing so for the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1. That four-year (!!) absence , as evidenced by his sack on Jared Goff in the opener. And while he couldn't get home on Matt Ryan in Week 2, he made up for it by taking down a more mobile and more talented Russell Wilson on Sunday -- not once or twice, but on three separate occasions.
For perspective, Wilson had only been sacked three times in the first two games combined.
Granted, Wilson still had his way with the Cowboys in the 38-31 win at CenturyLink Field, but it wasn't due to a maligned pass rush that sacked him four times on the day. It was more attributable to the myriad of mistakes in the secondary -- including an inordinate number of penalties that extended Seahawks offensive drives time and again -- and not what Smith and Co. were doing in the trenches. And with his three sacks on Sunday (a near fourth leading to a sack by Antwaun Woods), the All-Pro now leads the entire league in that category, besting second-place T.J. Watt going into Week 4.
It was the 14th game of Smith's career with at least two sacks, and considering he's logged only 40 starts, that means he's delivering multi-sack outings seven out of every 20 starts (35 percent) -- an insane rate of production.two years ago due to his battles with alcoholism to being a model citizen for himself and the Cowboys in 2020, and when you combine that with his early production, there's a question that needs to now be posed.
Is it time to discuss a possible extension with Smith, who was also named a team captain for Week 3?
It's something that should at least be floating in the forefront of the Cowboys mind -- a source confirming to CBS Sports it already is -- and not simply for the reasons stated above. The decision to roll the dice on Smith is already paying off in a big way, and he continues to pass every test laid before him.to ensure payouts for reporting to training camp on time and continuing his progressive ways, and they found themselves proud of not only his attendance, but the fact he dominated in ways that would suggest he was never indefinitely suspended in the first place. His potency in camp and it's translated over to the regular season in spades, making his current deal an absolute steal.
Also, he doesn't want to hear a damn thing about simplifying the Cowboys defense, telling everybody to "chill out" and allow time for it to be refined after a nontraditional offseason owned by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. By the looks of Smith, he's already refined, and it makes you wonder just how lethal he'll be in the second half of the season when he's truly found his groove.
Smith signed a one-year contract that pays him a base salary of $2 million with another $2 million tied to incentives. His base salary is just $100,000 more than punter Chris Jones, and there is no guaranteed money in the deal. He received a $90,000 kick when he was reinstated, an additional $50,000 thirty days later, another $100,000 when he reported to camp on time and a final $100,000 at the end of August when he made the final roster. In base salary alone, Smith will earn $314,703 less in 2020 than will Watt, who is on a rookie deal.
Leading to this point, and for the remainder of the season, the contract between the Cowboys and Smith makes sense -- given his history and challenges with staying on the field. But with a newfound sense of accomplishment and a handle on his alcoholism fueled by renewed self-worth and a support system that includes defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and head coach Mike McCarthy, Smith is thriving in his new digs. Once the best pass rusher in the league, he's already on pace to again become just that, and he's still several years left on a fresh body that is missing nearly half a decade of NFL brutality.
So while he's 31 years old in calendar years, his football age is closer to 26 or 27.
If the Cowboys avoid letting him hit free agency in 2021 and secure him on a two- or three-year deal, they could do away with having to use a premium draft pick on an unproven edge rusher in April.
Smith has stepped in and immediately upgraded the right edge following the loss of Robert Quinn in free agency. The former has one more sack than did the latter in the first three games of 2019, and would seemingly command less money from a Dallas team that gave him a shot at continuing his NFL career when no other team would blink in his direction. The Cowboys recently extended Randy Gregory through 2021, and while the two situations are wildly different in both severity of previous violation and team's investment in future success, keeping Smith in tow to tandem with Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence makes too much sense to shrug off.
With a dire need at safety -- including Xavier Woods being a free agent in 2021 -- the need to locate a top-caliber CB2 opposite rookie second-round pick Trevon Diggs and questions at linebacker, a pen stroke toward Smith would resolve the need at RDE both in production and depth. With $23.99 million in current cap space, per OverTheCap, and another go at Dak Prescott waiting in the wings, the money to secure Smith is there. It won't take a big bite out of the cap for 2021, and it'll also be one less item to negotiate with Prescott's contract talks again taking center stage.
Yes, there will always be the inherent risk because of Smith's demons, but it might be time to reward him for his angels, and the stars are aligning to do just that.