Owner Jerry Jones said at the time that Irving was away by agreement with the team and by design. He didn’t expect to see him in camp.
Now there is a question of whether Irving’s continued absence will impact his unrestricted free agent status at the end of the season and allow the Cowboys to somewhat control his destiny as a restricted free agent again.
If Irving doesn’t report 30 days before the start of the regular season, which is Tuesday, he won’t receive the accrued season necessary to become an unrestricted free agent in March 2019.
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Article 8, Section 1(b) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement states that, “A player shall not receive an Accrued Season for any League Year in which the player is under contract to a Club and in which he failed to report to such Club at least thirty days prior to the first regular season game of that season.”
Per a source, that is a rule that would apply to Irving, who is not expected to show up by Tuesday.
The Cleveland Browns are facing a similar situation with receiver Josh Gordon, who is away from camp in rehab.
Per the NFL Network, the Browns are expected to move him from the “did not report” list to the roster to prevent Gordon from losing an accrued season toward free agency while he’s tending to his health. Then, they’ll place him on a reserve list (NFI) until he shows.
Now considering his time away was agreed upon by the team, the Cowboys could do something similar with Irving.
The Cowboys chanced his departure this season when they placed a restricted free agent tender on him of $2.91 million. Another team could have signed him with the Cowboys only getting a second-round pick as compensation. Irving got no takers and signed his tender with the Cowboys.
He then missed the majority of the off-season program and organized teaching activities before showing up for the mandatory minicamp in June to avoid being fined.
Irving was suspended by the league for the first four games of the season for violating the substance abuse policy, and that was before he negotiated out for training camp to take care of off-field issues.
Depending on how he plays when he returns, the Cowboys might want to continue to somewhat control his destiny as a reward for the patience they have shown with him. He had seven sacks in eight games last season after missing the first four due to an NFL suspension for taking a banned substance and the last four with a concussion.
The Cowboys also might decide it’s time to move on.