The Cowboys have been here before with Gregory. After playing in 12 games as a rookie, the lanky pass rusher missed the first 14 games of the 2016 season, before missing all of 2017. When he could get on the field, Gregory used his speed and incredible raw skills to make plays, regardless of how much rust he needed to knock off.
Randy Gregory top play of 2018! pic.twitter.com/MyFeQCfbqB— William ???????????????????????? (@Texas_William) February 26, 2019
Gregory, talented enough to have been a top-10 draft pick, failed two drug tests in college at Nebraska and another at the NFL's scouting combine. Having earned the dreaded "character issues" label, he slid in the draft, falling to the Cowboys in the second round. Opinions ran both ways on the selection, with one side believing the Cowboys had pulled a fast one and picked up one of the best players in the draft and another believing Gregory didn't have the makeup to be a consistent contributor in the NFL.
While the Cowboys have stuck with Gregory over the last four years, it's hard to imagine that this isn't the end of the road for him and the team. Before his latest suspension, Gregory was enrolled in Stage 3 of the NFL's drug program, meaning he was subject to, among other conditions, as many as 10 unannounced drug tests a month and mandatory treatment.
Any player in Stage 3 who fails to meet the conditions set by the league faces a minimum one-year ban. After a year, the player can apply for reinstatement but must prove he was clean the entire time he was out, provide proof of drug treatment and go through a series of meetings with league personnel. It's no guarantee that a player who picks up a suspension after already being enrolled in Stage 3 will ever be reinstated. Gregory, an undeniably outstanding talent, might never play football again for using a substance that is legal for recreational use in 10 states and for medical use in 33 states.
Before Tuesday's suspension announcement, the Cowboys had a need to fill at defensive tackle, thanks to a lack of depth and the likely departure of David Irving. Without Gregory in their pass rush rotation, defensive end is now a position of need in the draft and free agency, as well.