Jaylon Smith is staying in the National Football Conference.
Less than two hours after his Wednesday release from the Dallas Cowboys was finalized, the longtime starting linebacker agreed to terms on an undisclosed contract to join the Green Bay Packers, per media reports.
“Source: The Packers are, in fact, the likely landing spot for former #Cowboys Pro Bowl LB Jaylon Smith. They are finalizing details,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported, adding, “The deal won’t be official until tomorrow morning. But Jaylon Smith had indicated Green Bay is where he wants to be. And the #Packers beef up their LB corps with a former Pro Bowler.”
As if the timing of his signing did not make it apparent, the Packers weren’t the only team to poke around Smith, the Cowboys’ leading tackler last season.
“The deal is done. The Chiefs also expressed interest, but the Packers ultimately were the landing spot for the former Cowboys linebacker,” WFAA’s Mike Leslie reported.
Dallas remains on the hook for Smith’s $7.2 million base salary for 2021, which was fully guaranteed earlier this offseason. He also will count $6.8 million in dead money against the team’s 2022 salary cap. By releasing him, the Cowboys are no longer liable for his $9.2 million injury guarantee next year.
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McCarthy Explains Impetus for Cut
On Wednesday, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, predictably, was peppered with questions about the hows and whys surrounding Smith’s sudden departure. McCarthy admitted it “wasn’t an easy decision” for the organization to reach — but a necessary one in the “big picture.”
“We felt this was the time to do it,” McCarthy explained to reporters, per the official team website. “I just think like anything, there’s always factors involved in how you build your 90-man roster. … Jaylon’s an excellent football player. There’s other factors involved in this decision.
“He played good football for us. In my time with him, he totally bought into the new direction of the program and everything we’ve done. The guy practices every single day and plays his ass off. I have nothing but respect for him.”
Beyond the contractual component of Smith’s pink slip, the Cowboys intend to get younger and more athletic at the linebacker position, particularly involving rookies Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox in expanded roles, McCarthy confirmed.
“This is about progress and a little more clarity of defensive packages and personnel groups and how we want to play,” he said.
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LVE Slams Social Media After Learning of Smith’s Release
It was an emotionally charged day at The Star for Smith’s teammates, who were stunned by Tuesday’s news that Dallas was moving on from its Week 4 defensive captain. Things were especially touchy for fellow veteran LB Leighton Vander Esch. Vander Esch learned of Smith’s release on social media, sparking an extensive rant concerning the “classless” and “ridiculous” treatment of professional athletes.
“What bugs me most about it is when people that are on the outside, fans or whatever it may be, they want to say, ‘Oh, someone deserves this’ or ‘someone deserves that,’” Vander Esch said, via the Dallas Morning News. “They don’t realize that this is literally like our livelihoods. We literally could get up and traded the next morning or the next day. We could be in 50 different freakin’ states. So people need to realize that. People need to realize that what they’re saying is literally just like nonsense. And I think that’s a big problem in the world today, and they need to cut that out.
“We don’t go talking about someone else’s job, so why are they talking about our jobs? It’s super frustrating. It’s annoying. I think it’s classless. I’ve got a lot of strong words for it because I know a lot of guys around the league deal with it. We’ve got families who might be in one area. You’ve got dudes that have been playing for a team for eight years, and they get traded. They’ve got family. They’ve got kids that have been there for that long. Think about that before you say something like, ‘Oh, this guy deserves that,’ or ‘this guy deserves that.’
“We don’t go saying — we’re not in your business about how much you guys are getting paid or what your boss is saying or this and that about anybody else’s job. We aren’t doing that. This is our livelihood. This is our job. We could get traded tomorrow. We could get cut tomorrow. So people need to realize what they’re saying on social media because I think it’s ridiculous.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL