The Cowboys' young defense was part of the reason for hoping they could win back-to-back division titles, but the pass rush is already facing an uphill battle to be as impressive as it was last season thanks to an indefinite suspension for Randy Gregory, which was announced on Tuesday shortly before the 2019 NFL combine kicks off. 

Gregory was suspended indefinitely for violating the Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse and the terms of his conditional reinstatement that allowed Gregory to get back on the field in 2018.

Gregory, a former second-round pick of the Cowboys in 2015, had a breakout season of sorts for Dallas last year with six sacks after missing basically his entire career because of suspensions. 

The NFL fully reinstated Gregory in July 2018, finally giving him the opportunity to spend an entire year on the field. There were concerns about a possible relapse as early as September of this past year.

Gregory initially fell in the draft after failing a marijuana test at the NFL combine, and was hit with his first suspension prior to the 2016 season, when he was banned for four games. While serving that four-game suspension, Gregory was suspended another 10 games, which resulted in him playing just two games during the 2016 season.

Not long after that year ended, Gregory was suspended for the entire 2017 season.

His reinstatement prior to this year was from that very suspension, meaning he had just made it back onto the field and into a full-time production standpoint heading into last year. 

Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence helped the Cowboys register 39 sacks, hardly tops in the league but still much higher than anyone expected out of a defense in transition. The combination of those guys on the edge along with linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch coming on strong as young linebackers allowed the Cowboys to morph into one of the more dangerous defenses in the league.

Now things could take a turn. Gregory is going to be suspended indefinitely, which means he is highly unlikely to return for the start of the 2019 season. It's a long ways until the season begins, but betting on Gregory to be a productive pass rusher for the Cowboys is a pretty big stretch given how things typically operate with the NFL's disciplinary system. 

Making matters more difficult is the situation with Lawrence, who is slated to become one of -- if not the -- highest-paid defenders in the NFL. The Cowboys brass said Tuesday they are "very confident" that the team can hammer out a new deal with Lawrence, but it's entirely possible they're pretty far apart heading into the offseason.

"I don't know the timing," Cowboys COO Stephen Jones said via the team's website. "But I'm very confident we can get a deal done."

And the Cowboys are likely dead set on using the franchise tag if Lawrence won't take their top offer. That much was clear with the comments from Jones on Tuesday. He did also point out that Lawrence had another monster season while playing quietly under the franchise tag. 

"He played under the franchise tag and did it in a very respectful way and played his butt off," Jones said. "I do think he's first up."

The Cowboys badly want to sign Lawrence. They're going to keep Lawrence. No chance they let him hit the free agency market. That only becomes more important now that Gregory is facing a suspension, while David Irving heads out towards free agency.