Linebacker Jaylon Smith’s days with the Dallas Cowboys are coming to a close.
Dallas is planning to release Smith, but the move will not become official until Wednesday, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported. There is still a chance Smith could be traded, but it is unlikely that will transpire, Garafolo added.
The team later announced its plans to release Smith.
ESPN first reported the news.
Once a perceived darling of the Dallas D who signed a five-year, $64 million extension ahead of the 2019 season, Smith has become the odd man out in the Cowboys’ linebacking corps, having started two of the team’s four games in 2021.
As the clock ticks down on Smith’s official release, Garafolo reports a trade is unlikely to come about due to the fifth-year player’s contract, with the balance of his $7.2 million base salary for this year and $9.2 million in injury guarantees next year serving as high-priced deterrents to potential suitors. The move to release Smith now is a bit confounding considering his guaranteed salary for this season, which could have been nullified with a release in March, per Over the Cap.
The why isn’t as confounding as the when, however.
NFL Network’s Jane Slater reports Smith, 26, did everything asked of him this season under the umbrella of new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, but it simply wasn’t enough in comparison to the play of Keanu Neal, Leighton Vander Esch and rookie dynamo Micah Parsons. Though Parsons has seen a great deal more reps as a pass rusher, the return of an injured Demarcus Lawrence is likely to push Parsons back and Slater adds rookie Jabril Cox’s increased use was also likely a factor in the decision to part ways with Smith.
Slater added that there was no incident that led to Smith’s release, simply a move brought about by others on the roster outperforming him.
A 2016 second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame, Smith drew notice with an impressive 2018 season in which he posted 121 tackles, four sacks, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and four passes defended. He appeared to be a versatile standout who would be a vital cog in Dallas’ defense for seasons to come. Smith garnered an 84.1 season grade from Pro Football Focus in 2018, but it proved to be an outlier.
His grade fell all the way to 54.2 in 2020 as his struggles, particularly in run defense, became apparent and a hindrance on a struggling Cowboys defense.
In four games this year, Smith has posted 18 tackles, no sacks or takeaways. He came off the bench in Sunday’s win over the Panthers and tallied one tackle in 33 snaps. Those are likely to be the final numbers of his days in Dallas.
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