The Dallas Cowboys are facing outside pressure to release linebacker Jaylon Smith prior to the 2021 regular season.
Bleacher Report argued Smith is the one Cowboys player who could be chopped in the coming months — preferably after June 1, for salary cap purposes.
Via BR’s Chris Roling:
A second-round pick in 2016, Smith flashed massive upside, hence the team hitting him with a six-year extension worth $68.4 million in August 2019. But like the rest of his unit, Smith crashed and burned last year, putting up a 54.2 PFF grade, down from 70.2 the year prior (which wasn’t really matching expectations based on the contract, either).
Smith is a $9.8 million cap hit in 2021 and while the Cowboys could hope to tough it out and hope he’s better in the new scheme next year, making him a post-June 1 cut would save $7.2 million and push the dead money to future years.
Given the play of the entire unit last year and all the money poured into the offensive side of the ball, it’s something that has to at least get some consideration from the Dallas front office.
Under contract through 2024, Smith is due to count $9.8 million against the cap next season, his age-26 campaign. The former Pro Bowler’s $7.2 million base salary for 2021 became guaranteed on March 21, the fifth day of the new league year.
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Not Going Anywhere?
Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in February that the Cowboys are not mulling releasing the highly-paid and underperforming defender this offseason — pre- or post-June 1.
“The Cowboys are considering ways to clear cap room through contract restructures and releases. But one option that is not on the table is the cutting of maligned linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to a source,” Hill reported.
A key culprit on a historically bad outfit that surrendered the most points in franchise history, Smith recorded a team-leading 154 tackles in 2020 — year two of his five-year, $63.75 million extension. The NFL’s third-highest-paid LB added 1.5 sacks, one interception, and zero forced fumbles as impact plays were few and far in-between.
But the Cowboys always appeared likely to run it back with Smith, who they hope will benefit from former defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s firing and the hiring of ex-Falcons head coach Dan Quinn as Nolan’s successor.
“The fact that he lines up every day, the fact that he practices hard every day, plays hard, I thought he gave us some big-time, productive games,” McCarthy said of Smith after the season, per the Star-Telegram. “I think he’s probably one of the ones that was challenged the most as far as the scheme change. I just love his approach and the way he’s gone about it.”
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