Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Randy Gregory backs out of big-money deal with Cowboys, agrees to terms with Broncos

Randy Gregory was set to remain with the Dallas Cowboys for a long, long time to come. The team was late to begin negotiating with the free agent pass rusher as it worked through the eventual trade of four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper, and that allowed the doors to swing open on Gregory being available for legal tampering ahead of 2022 NFL free agency, but a new deal for All-Pro pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence freed up enough money to help get a deal done with his compatriot. Gregory initially agreed to terms on a massive new deal in Dallas — a source informed CBS Sports — but that’s now changed.

Gregory has pivoted and will instead join the Denver Broncos, the front-runner to try to pry him away from the Cowboys, turning away from a five-year deal in Dallas that was worth upward of $70 million with $28 million guaranteed. It’s expected the Broncos’ deal will be a larger one than what the Cowboys offered, but money isn’t why Gregory and his agent pulled a U-turn.

It’s because of the Cowboys’ front office and a last-minute attempt to change the terms of what was already agreed upon. Per the same source, Gregory was willing to accept less money to remain in Dallas, but the team’s front office then revisited the deal and hoped to insert language that was neither previously agreed upon nor deemed palatable by Gregory’s camp. As such, the Cowboys have now lost another No. 94 to the Broncos, the first being DeMarcus Ware in yesteryear.

As Monday wore on, it became clear the Cowboys’ initial offer contained a “noticeable” gap between that of other teams, and they worked throughout the day and overnight to close it, even tossing in a signing with safety Malik Hooker thanks to their cap magic; successfully achieving their goal and retaining Gregory, before imploding.

Additionally, CBS Sports has learned that it was owner Jerry Jones who was most passionate about getting the deal done and largely responsible for the initial agreement, before his front office moved to insert a still-unknown clause into the contract that torpedoed Jones’ efforts.

Upon hearing of the news, Jones was livid, sources say.

Gregory, 29, is a former second-round pick of the Cowboys (2015), was viewed as one of the most unique bend and quick-twitch talents at the edge at the time, and he’s proven this to be true time and again, but a lot of his early NFL career was derailed due to CBA policies that banned the use of marijuana — Gregory using it to self-medicate in his battle with clinical anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. With the enactment of a new collective bargaining agreement in 2020, Gregory was allowed to return from suspension and hasn’t missed a game since due to those previous issues, and that’s half of what the Cowboys (and other teams) needed to see happen before committing to him for the long run.

The other was his ability to truly take over games, as he did on more than one occasion as starter in 2021, after having been relegated to backup the previous season by defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, who were both fired in part because of the underutilization of Gregory, sources told CBS Sports at the time. With the hiring of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Gregory was promoted and could only be stopped by a calf injury and a run-in with the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 list.

Despite those two occurrences, Gregory logged a career-best 11 starts and had career-high numbers across the board, including six sacks, three forced fumbled, and his first career interception. Two years ago, Gregory told CBS Sports in an exclusive Q&A that he “was back for good,” and he made good on that promise to the Cowboys, who didn’t follow through on theirs.

Their error gives the Broncos one of the most talented edge rushers in the NFL to play in tandem with a now-healthy Bradley Chubb.

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