Pending any further legal jockeying, the Dallas Cowboys will have premier pass rusher Greg Hardy for 75 percent of the 2015 season after news from the NFL came down Friday that his suspension was reduced from 10 games to four games.
By all accounts, this makes Jerry Jones the owner of the most intriguing defense in football.
He already had our attention, but with Hardy not projected in their lineup until Week 11, there was doubt as to how effective he might be right away. Getting into game shape and learning how to play in a defense already well in motion is quite difficult. Now, he could be in his prime as early as Week 6. So could rookie pass rusher Randy Gregory.
Before a season-long suspension took place in 2014, Hardy was coming off two consecutive years of 11 sacks or more. His 2013 total of 15 boosted him to another stratosphere of edge rushers that would have placed him atop the market had he not run into the legal problems that marred most of his 2014.
To place his potential impact into perspective, the Cowboys were one play away from possibly competing in the NFC Championship game despite finishing the regular season with a dismal 28 sacks, good for 28th-best in the NFL. Their individual leader was Jeremy Mincey, who finished the season with six. Jones knows how to strengthen a strength, like he did after the signing of offensive lineman La'el Collins this offseason, but he also knows how to fix a weakness.
Now, the challenge falls on the shoulders of Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who will have to incorporate Hardy, prepare the dynamic, yet potentially unstable Gregory and ease in defensive captain Sean Lee, who is returning from a torn ACL. Lee is also switching full time to a weakside linebacker spot.
This could all turn out to be an incredible stroke of luck for an owner that smells a Lombardi Trophy. We've recently noted how Jones' moves this offseason leave no room for interpretation. Either way, there's no doubt that all eyes will be on Dallas, and Jones wouldn't have it any other way.