The Dallas Cowboys could look to move on from their Pro Bowl linebacker soon
When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, they knew they were taking a risk. After all, Smith was viewed as a top-five talent before suffering a career-threatening knee injury that ended his college career.
When the Cowboys drafted Smith 34th overall, it was unclear if he would ever be the same player again. And it would take an entire year before the young linebacker was finally able to take the field for Dallas after spending his entire rookie season rehabilitating.
Since making his debut back in 2017, Smith has yet to miss a single game for Dallas. And his hard work paid off big time last August when he inked a five-year, $64 million extension. The Cowboys’ faith in the once severely-injured linebacker was quickly rewarded when he was elected to his first Pro Bowl in 2019.
Currently, Smith leads the NFL in total tackles with a combined 75 through seven games. Unfortunately, he also possesses an overall grade of 53.8 from Pro Football Focus for his play this season, by far the lowest of his career. And Smith is also the centerpiece of one of the worst defenses in NFL history.
The Dallas defense currently ranks dead last in scoring average allowed, giving up 34.7 points a game. They’ve also allowed the most rushing yards in the NFL this season, a jaw-dropping 178.3 yards on the ground per contest.
The Cowboys also possess the worst turnover differential in the league at -13. The defense has only been able to recover a total of two fumbles and forced just one interception in seven games. And Smith seems to often be at the very heart of the team’s defensive issues.
Here’s what Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated wrote on Monday about what he’s hearing concerning Dallas possibly moving on from Jaylon Smith soon. (Correction – Original credit was given to Conor Orr rather than Albert Breer for the below quote)
"“A well-established fact within the walls of the Cowboys’ facility: LB Jaylon Smith hasn’t played up to his contract over the last year and a half. In fact, I know people there have been alarmed how often he’s at the heart of big plays made against the Dallas defense. I believe he’s got a pretty important couple months ahead, and it wouldn’t shock me if he’s gone after the year, regardless of who’s running the defense.”"
With the trade deadline nearing, it seems unlikely that any NFL team would choose to tackle Smith’s back-loaded contract. It’s a deal scheduled to pay him well north of $40 million in base salary over its final four years, ending in 2025 according to spotrac.com.
It’s fair to wonder if the new coaching staff in Dallas actually feels like Jaylon Smith is a good fit within the team’s new defensive scheme or not. And while he’s racking up the tackle numbers, other metrics and the team’s poor place in the standings tell a drastically different story. If this report is true, Smith could be interviewing for his job over the team’s next nine games.