NFC Rival ‘Ideal Trade Destination’ for Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

Getty Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith

The Dallas Cowboys insist they won’t trade veteran linebacker Jaylon Smith. Relentless NFL speculation says otherwise.

A new rumor-list compiled by named the New Orleans Saints among “three ideal trade destinations” for Smith (along with the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers), in a deal that could take place before the 2021 season.

Trading Smith to a team in the same conference may not seem as likely as moving him to the AFC, but the New Orleans Saints could put together a nice offer for him. The Saints have a dire need at the linebacker position and adding Smith could give them one of the best units in the NFC.

Demario Davis and Zack Baun are the anchors of the Saints’ defensive unit right now, but the addition of Jaylon Smith would give them a nice experienced player to help them. The Saints are in an awkward spot in their franchise’s history, but they’re hoping to stay competitive even after Drew Brees decided to retire.

According to, the Cowboys would save $7.2 million against the 2021 salary by trading Smith, leaving behind $2.6 million in dead money the team can spread out over the next two years.

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PFF Projects Smith Shipped to AFC West

The above mention wasn’t the first time the Chargers and Smith have been connected inside the NFL rumor mill. Earlier this month, Pro Football Focus analyst Brad Spielberger drew up a hypothetical agreement, with the former acquiring the latter in exchange for a 2022 fifth-round draft pick.

During draft season, the Dallas Cowboys made one move that likely works against this trade possibility and one that made it perhaps more likely. Dallas elected to decline the fifth-year option for 2018 first-round LB Leighton Vander Esch, making him a free agent after the 2021 season. With less certainty at the off-ball linebacker spot going forward, Dallas may be less inclined to move on from Jaylon Smith in a pivotal year. On the other hand, they drafted LB Micah Parsons at No. 12 overall after a great trade-down with the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles.

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Smith Motivated Headed Into 2021 Campaign

Prior to the draft, his future murkier than ever, Smith issued a statement of encouragement, pointing to the coronavirus pandemic and since-replaced coordinator Mike Nolan as culprits for the historically bad 2020 outfit — and, both infections now removed, reasons for hope in 2021.

“Last year, [battling through the COVID-19 pandemic] was foreign. Just getting an opportunity to get at it earlier in the offseason, starting virtual meetings and things of that nature,” he said in April. “[New defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn coming in, putting together a great understanding of what he wants our culture to be, and our identity. That’s clear. Just looking forward to this opportunity to be great. Our team, the Cowboys, America’s Team, Cowboys Nation fans, it’s been too long. We got to get it right.”

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL