The Cowboys should at least consider cutting Jaylon Smith

Jaylon Smith, Dallas Cowboys, (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Jaylon Smith, Dallas Cowboys, (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

It was recently reported that the Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith, who had long been viewed as a potential cut candidate for America’s Team, is apparently not on the chopping block this offseason. However, the question that fans of Dallas should be asking themselves is why not?

The move to cut Smith would have saved the Cowboys upwards of seven million dollars this offseason. That money could have been used to help the team bring back some of its free agents like cornerback Chidobe Awuzie or, much more significantly, could have been used to free up space in contract negotiations with starting quarterback Dak Prescott.

The former Notre Dame product managed to turn his early career success in Dallas into a massive five-year, $64 million contract extension back in 2019. At the time of the signing Smith and his fellow young linebacker teammate, Leighton Vander Esch seemed poised to be the leaders of a dominant Cowboys defense for years to come. The hype surrounding the young defender only grew after he managed to get selected to his first Pro Bowl in the season following his extension.

The 25-year old linebacker had a weird year for Dallas in 2020 where he managed to lead the team in total tackles by a significant margin with 154 but seemed to significantly regress in his ability to stop the run and was frequently out of position on key plays, especially early in the year.

Some of the young defender’s struggles can plausibly be attributed to the new and complex defensive scheme that the now-former defensive coordinator Mike Nolan tried to implement. That possible explanation is certainly bolstered by the fact that the entire defense appeared to regress last year to the point where they went from the eleventh best scoring defense in 2019  to the twenty-seventh ranked scoring defense in 2020 (Though part of that could be attributed to injuries).

It is entirely possible that Smith could return to his 2019 Pro Bowl-caliber play under Dan Quinn’s defense. However, regardless of why Smith struggled in 2020 the fact that the team came out and preemptively declared that he would not be on the chopping block seems like a mistake.

The Dallas Cowboys should maintain as much flexibility as they possibly can as they try and bring back their starting signal-caller to a long-term deal that will likely require them to either cut players or restructure contracts.

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The fact that Dallas seems to have limited its financial flexibility for a player coming off a down year with a massive contract can only be attributed to the organizations’ confidence that Smith will return to his former self next season. Hopefully, for fans of America’s Team, that confidence is not misplaced.