The Cowboys tweeted and deleted.
They posted on their website and soon after they removed the link.
Because defensive end Randy Gregory, two people familiar with the deal confirmed to USA TODAY Sports, pivoted.
After reaching a deal with the Cowboys that was supposed to be the final word on his future, Gregory now plans to sign with the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos have offered Gregory a five-year, $70 million contract with $28 million in guarantees, two people with knowledge of the deal confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement has not been signed.
That value matches the Cowboys offer that Gregory accepted, the people said. But multiple reports said the Cowboys added a clause to the deal that Gregory and his representation were not comfortable with.
Gregory’s payday comes after a productive 2021 season in which the defensive end recorded six sacks and three forced fumbles in addition to one interception and one fumble recovery. Gregory was also elected to the player management council, an indication of how coaches and teammates see his place in the locker room. The success on and off the field reflects Gregory’s progress after several early career suspensions resulting from violations of the league’s drug policy. Gregory’s marijuana use was partly how he dealt with intense social anxiety, he told USA TODAY Sports.
But since Gregory was reinstated from suspension in September 2020, he has remained available for the Cowboys and productive. He’s thrived more under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s plan in 2021 than he did under the 2020 coaching staff.
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NFL teams have taken notice, Gregory’s agent Peter Schaffer told USA TODAY Sports.
“This process has given me insight into how far Randy has come in the eyes of the NFL,” Schaffer said Tuesday morning. “I couldn’t be more proud of how these teams approached him and how the conversations went.
“It’s refreshing to see how far Randy goes.”
In 50 career games for the Cowboys, Gregory had 85 tackles, 16 ½ sacks, eight forced fumbles and 52 quarterback hits. He generated consistent pressure in 2021 while playing 55% of defensive snaps for Dallas even after missing five games while rehabilitating a calf injury. Gregory also underwent knee surgery after the season.
The Cowboys’ 2015 second-round selection knew a decision would wait this spring, but he tried not to look too far ahead during game weeks.
“I would be lying if I said I don’t think about it, but I don’t think about it too much,” Gregory said in November. “I think I do best when I live in the present. In the past, it was difficult for me to do that. So it’s really crucial for me to do it now so that I can achieve the goals that I want. Obviously, this being a contract. That day will come. Right now I’m just focused on trying to win games and improve my game on the pitch and be the best (in the) locker room that I can be for everyone.
Gregory was then asked if the Jones family’s commitment to him through off-pitch challenges would influence the deal.
“The whole Jones family, they understand what they mean to me and what they’ve done for me,” Gregory said. “That would be taken into consideration with just about anything about them.
“I will leave that to my agent and the front office.”
Gregory had created scaffolding in Dallas that allowed him to navigate the social anxiety that had contributed to his previous suspensions for violating the league’s drug policy. Gregory discussed this structure with USA TODAY Sports in 2020, discussing how his parents, psychologist, kids and girlfriend helped him fight negative thoughts and create healthy habits.
“Anyone who knows my situation or knows people who deal with my situation knows that this is not a straight line to success,” Gregory said. “You’re going to take detours, you’re going to have hiccups. I had many. I’ve been to the same place in the past where people wonder whether or not I can stay on the straight and narrow.
“My anxiety is going to be something that I deal with on a daily basis. It’s not something that I can really eliminate from my life.
“But I really feel like I have all the tools in place, all the resources and above all the right mindset to stay available.”
The Cowboys hoped the organization’s role in that scaffolding would help seal a deal for his return.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones discussed his relationship with Gregory in February.
“I feel so comfortable with Randy that I think we can sit there and just stare at each other and not say a word, but we’re talking up a storm,” Jones said from the Senior Bowl. “I feel like that. And I believe he does too. So I had the chance here to meet his agent. We had a good visit there, but we are certainly taking the necessary steps to see how we are going to go. forward.
“Knowing about our time together and some of the benefits and some of the times we’ve had to go through and some of the not so fun stuff, that will serve us well.”
For just over an hour on Tuesday, it seemed like the relationship was working. It looked like the Cowboys had locked up their two starting pass throwers after they reached a deal Monday night with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
Then, course reversed.
The Cowboys deleted their tweet.
The Broncos tweeted a GIF that only needed one word: “SURPRISE.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.