Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tried to steer clear of talking about defensive end Greg Hardy, saying he wasn’t going to discuss free agents.
Of course, that lasted all of a few minutes, when he said he wanted to keep linebacker Rolando McClain, making it clear he didn’t just want to talk about the expensive distraction he created last offseason.
Via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, Jones said he thinks the “underestimated” the impact of so much time off for Hardy when they signed him to a one-year deal worth nearly $9 million. He had played in one game the previous year, landing on the commissioner’s exempt list after a domestic violence arrest. He was then suspended the first four games of the season.
Hardy managed 6.0 sacks, with just 1.5 of them coming from Thanksgiving on.
“Even though you are a great God-gifted player or an accomplished player, you just lose something that you got to get back to when you are laid off,” Jones said. “I think that we all underestimated the effect of his layoff from playing. I’m not going to get into, obviously [his] off the field issues would have impacted anybody breathing. I think that was impactful. And then the fact that we weren’t winning.
“You seem to get better seasons out of players when you are on a winning streak then when you are having trouble winning and losing. I think that had an impact. If we had been sitting there with 10 or 11 wins, then Hardy or others could have had a better year.”
Of course, Hardy was dubbed a “real leader” by Jones early in the season, which was easier when the team was not in the tank and he was getting the occasional sack. But production comes in fits and starts for Hardy anyway.
He has 40.0 career sacks in 75 games, and it’s worth remembering that 7.0 of the sacks came in his final two games of 2013, when he was in the salary drive that netted him the franchise tag from the Panthers the following season. Otherwise, 33.0 sacks in 73 games is a pretty pedestrian rate, and it sounds like the Cowboys aren’t willing to put up with the attendant headaches if they don’t come with production.