Dallas Cowboys will not bring back All-Pro Aldon Smith in 2021, 4 potential landing spots

Aldon Smith would make sense for the Seattle Seahawks
Dec 20, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Aldon Smith (58) picks up a fumble against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Former NFL All-Pro and sack artist Aldon Smith returned to the league last season with the Dallas Cowboys after missing the past four years due to numerous off-field issues.

Once one of the most-dominating pass rushers of his generation with the San Francisco 49ers back in 2011 and 2012, Smith’s substance abuse issues are by now well known.

They seemed to be behind him with the Cowboys last season, as the former top-seven pick acted the part of their most consistent pass rusher. In 16 games (all starts), Smith recorded 14 quarterback hits and five sacks.

Apparently, that’s not enough for the Cowboys to retain the 31-year-old pass rusher. According to numerous media reports, Dallas has opted against re-signing him in NFL Free agency.

This is somewhat surprising in the grand scheme of things. Smith seemed to have his house in order off the field last season. Owner Jerry Jones also pushed back against moving the former Missouri standout to the Seattle Seahawks ahead of the Nov. 3 NFL trade deadline.

This seemed to suggest that a somewhat long-term marriage could have been in the cards between Aldon Smith and the Dallas Cowboys. Alas, that’s not the case.

Currently a free agent with the market dwindling, there’s going to be a number of squads interested in Smith on a team-friendly contract. Here’s a look at four potential landing spots.

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Seattle Seahawks take a chance on Aldon Smith

Pete Carroll and the Seahawks make sense for Aldon Smith
Dec 10, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll talks with general manager John Schneider, right, during pregame warmups against the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

As noted above, Seattle was interested in trading for Smith ahead of last season’s deadline. Even after signing Kerry Hyder away from the San Francisco 49ers in free agency, pass rush becomes a major need for Pete Carroll’s squad.

While Seattle recorded 46 sacks a season ago, very little of that came from the edge pass rush position. In fact, safety Jamal Adams and defensive tackle Jarran Reed combined for 16 of those sacks. This is a major need for the Seahawks. Without much cap room and only three selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, Aldon Smith becomes a realistic option in free agency.

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Baltimore Ravens need pass rush help

Las Vegas Raiders to sign Yannick Ngakoue
Nov 1, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) rushes during the second half as Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva (78) blocks at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A team that has always relied on edge rushers to provide consistent pressure on the quarterback, Baltimore is in a less-than-ideal situation right now. It lost Pro Bowlers Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. The team’s leading sack-getter from a season ago, Calais Campbell, is getting up there in age and recorded just four quarterback take downs in 2020.

It goes without saying that Baltimore will target this position early in next month’s NFL Draft. In no way does this mean that Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta will ignore the remaining NFL free agent market. That’s where Smith comes into play as a perfect scheme fit and cost-effective option.

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New England Patriots could continue active offseason

Matt Judon, New England Patriots
Jan 10, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Matt Judon (99) celebrates after the AFC Wild Card playoff game win against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of Judon, the Patriots did a great job adding him to their underwhelming pass rush core. The return of Kyle Van Noy should help in this regard, too. That doesn’t mean a surprisingly active Patriots squad won’t look for more pass rush help moving forward in free agency.

As with every team listed here, we’re talking about a culture that could help Aldon Smith continue on the right path and move on from those dark days. New England has taken chances on similar players in the past. There’s no reason to believe Bill Belichick and Co. will stop now as the Patriots look to rebound from their first losing season since 2000. This would be a very Patriot-like move.

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Aldon Smith reunion with the San Francisco 49ers

Could Aldon Smith return to the San Francisco 49ers?
Dec 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith (99) gets ready to rush against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a number of potential hiccups to the 49ers bringing Smith back. Primarily, how would it work after they gave him so many chances to prove himself off the field from 2011-14? Would going back to Northern California also bring back his nightmarish run-ins with the law in that region?

However, there’s also a lot to like about a potential reunion. San Francisco needs pass rush help behind Nick Bosa, who is coming off a torn ACL. It is not in the greatest of cap situations. Meanwhile, the organization has changed leaps and bounds since the Jim Harbaugh era. Kyle Shanahan is a more player-friendly coach. There’s a ton of veterans on defense to help Smith. There’s a community within the organization that can help him stay on the right path. It almost makes too much sense.