Who is the most unlikely all-time winner of the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award? That probably depends on whom you ask/personal opinion, but it's fair to say that if Dallas Cowboys defensive end Aldon Smith wins it this season that he would claim that honor hands down. He is +2000 on the moneyline odds at William Hill sportsbook to do so.
Smith was one of the NFL's best pass-rushers as a rookie in 2011 with the San Francisco 49ers as he took down opposing quarterbacks 14 times, a 49ers rookie record. Smith was a half-sack shy of tying the all-time rookie sacks record held by Jevon Kearse despite not starting a single game.
The former Missouri star Smith was even better the next year with a team-record 19.5 sacks. Smith was named first-team All-Pro and looked as if he would dominate for the next decade. Alas, that's when off-field trouble started to find Smith, and he hasn't played in the league since 2015 due to an indefinite suspension for violation of the NFL's personal conduct and substance abuse policies. He has been arrested numerous times.
However, the Cowboys signed the 30-year-old to a one-year contract in April and the league reinstated him officially in May. It's a low-risk deal for $910,000, and Smith could earn up to $4 million in incentives. He's reportedly in terrific shape after working out with Fox NFL insider Jay Glazer.
Dallas' new defensive line coach is Jim Tomsula, who was with the 49ers when Smith had those two monster seasons. Tomsula was one of the first additions to Coach Mike McCarthy's staff. The Cowboys needed pass-rushing help after losing Robert Quinn in free agency to Chicago. He led the team with 11.5 sacks last year. Dallas end DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the NFL's highest-paid defensive players but slumped to just five sacks in 2019.
Just once has a Cowboys player won NFL Comeback Player of the Year: Linebacker Greg Ellis in 2007. No defensive player has won the award since safety Eric Berry in 2015 with Kansas City. Dallas opens the season Sunday night, Sept. 13 at the Los Angeles Rams.
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