5 Dallas Cowboys that should not return in 2021

Dallas Cowboys helmet (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys helmet (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /
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Jaylon Smith, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Jaylon Smith (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

#1 – Jaylon Smith, Linebacker

If Albert Breer of the MMQB is to be believed, the Cowboys are well aware of linebacker Jaylon Smith‘s shortcomings. And are very concerned about how often Smith is at the heart of bad defensive plays. That could make him a candidate for a shocking release this offseason.

Coming out of Notre Dame, Smith was considered a top-five talent. That was before he suffered a devastating knee injury that caused nerve damage and threatened to end his football career. Smith would end up redshirting his first year in Dallas but built himself back up to be a Pro Bowler in 2019.

In their scouting report of Smith coming out of college, Walter Football highlighted some of his best traits as being a superb tackler as well as an excellent pass-coverage linebacker with tremendous instincts and great read-and-react skills. Yet, these are the very things the fifth-year defender has struggled with this season.

Sporting a career-low 51.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, Smith showed a decline in play last season despite the Pro Bowl nod. That regression has only gotten worse under a new coaching staff and defensive scheme in 2020.

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Jaylon Smith is scheduled to make a salary cap hit of $9.8 million in 2021 after inking a massive five-year, $64 million contract extension last year. If the Dallas Cowboys do decide to release Smith after this season, it will cost them millions of dead cap space to do so. That fact alone could keep him playing in Dallas and the team simply hoping he’ll eventually improve.