Is this Dallas Cowboys defender destined to be traded soon?

Dallas Cowboys, Jaylon Smith (9) (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
Dallas Cowboys, Jaylon Smith (9) (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) /

Coming off a disappointing 6-10 season, it’s hard to view the Dallas Cowboys as a team with an excess of talent. And so much so that they may be willing to trade a player that was a Pro Bowler as recently as 2019. But some are wondering if that might be the case.

The Cowboys themselves created this excess during the 2021 NFL Draft. The team used their first-round selection to draft Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. Then they used their first pick on day three of the draft to select LSU linebacker Jabril Cox in the fourth round.

Dallas added Parsons and Cox to a linebacker corps that already features two former Pro Bowlers in Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. The Cowboys also signed former Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl safety Keanu Neal in the offseason and shifted him to linebacker.

According to Around The NFL Editor Gregg Rosenthal of, this could mean that Smith is the odd-man-out in Dallas. Especially if the team intends to play Parsons and Neal on the majority of their passing downs this upcoming season. Rosenthal even believes the Cowboys may be willing to pay part of Smith’s salary to ship him out of town.

"“I’m beginning [to] wonder if Jaylon Smith makes this team … The Cowboys just guaranteed Smith $7.2 million in March, which is looking like a mistake. They may wind up trading him in a Joe Schobert-like deal where they pay much of his salary, just for a little cap relief. The Cowboys’ misadventures in self-scouting are a problem that goes back decades.”"

Despite recording the second-most combined tackles in the NFL last season, a career-high 154, Smith is coming off the worst performance of his four-year career so far. That according to the football analytics website Pro Football Focus, who gave Smith an overall grade of 54.2 for his play in 2020.

The Cowboys selected Smith in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft despite him suffering a career-threatening knee injury while at Notre Dame. He spent his entire rookie season rehabbing from that injury and made his debut with the Cowboys the following year.

Despite suffering the devastating knee injury, Smith found a way to build himself into a Pro Bowler in Dallas, earning that nod for the first time in 2019. He also earned himself a healthy contract extension, signing a five-year, $64 million deal in August of that same year. Unfortunately, there’s been a decline in Smith’s play over the past two seasons as he finds himself playing for his third defensive coordinator in as many years.

Last year, the MMQB’s Albert Breer reported that it was a well-established fact within the walls of the Cowboys’ facility that Smith hadn’t played up to his contract. And Breer wouldn’t have been shocked if Dallas had moved on from the Pro Bowl linebacker at the end of the season.

That narrative appeared to continue into the 2021 NFL Draft with rumors that Smith was potentially being shopped by the Cowboys in a possible trade scenario. Mike Fisher over at all but confirmed it and it has since been revealed that it was indeed Jaylon’s name that was being floated around, although a source denies that trade talks ever got serious.

With Micah Parsons, Keanu Neal, Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith all vying for significant snaps this upcoming season, something has to give (a sentiment echoed by the commentary team for Cowboys Night on Monday).

Throw in ascending youngsters like Luke Gifford and Jabril Cox who are making big impacts in the preseason, and it certainly feels like Dallas has an excess of talent at the position. So much so, they may be willing to part with some of it especially if it can help them elsewhere on their roster.

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But the Dallas Cowboys aren’t known for making timely moves that actually help the franchise. Instead, they tend to ride things out to the bitter end hoping situations resolve themselves rather than making a move they might regret. Even if that means benching a player who currently has the sixth-highest salary cap number on the team.