The arrival of Micah Parsons could spell the departure of Jaylon Smith.
With the Dallas Cowboys‘ first-round rookie entrenched at middle linebacker and walk-year veteran Leighton Vander Esch likely penciled in at weakside linebacker, ESPN’s Todd Archer believes Smith will be moved to the strongside where his role would be significantly diminished under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
“The SAM linebacker plays 20 snaps a game,” Archer noted Friday during an interview on 105.3 The Fan. “Paying $7 million to a guy for 20 snaps a game doesn’t seem to be the best financial use. But you start hearing Jerry [Jones] talk about the pressure that Jaylon can get, that Parsons can get, and the different things they can do.
“One thing Jaylon Smith is not: he’s not an edge rusher. He’s a decent blitzer up the middle; he’s not an edge guy because he doesn’t have that bend that you want. Maybe Parsons is that guy. How they mix in these three guys is going to be a fascinating experiment going forward.”
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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.
A key culprit on a historically bad outfit that ceded 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 ‘backer added 1.5 sacks, one interception, and zero forced fumbles as impact plays were few and far in-between.
Ironically, Smith may have helped the Cowboys land Parsons with the No. 12 overall pick in last month’s draft. As the team’s official website revealed, the former reached out to the latter following a 2019 Penn State game at AT&T Stadium, and their brief conversation proved prophetic.
Smith told Parsons, “I love your game.”
Parsons replied, “‘Tell the Cowboys to come get me next year. I’m trying to play next to you.’
“It’s kind of crazy how everything worked out,” he said Friday at rookie minicamp.
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Parsons admitted to “rust” Friday as he took his first practice rep since 2019, after opting out last season due to concerns over COVID-19. By his second rep, the soon-to-be 22-year-old declared “I’m back.” Below are Parsons-related notes from the session, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News.
First-round pick Micah Parsons is one of three LBs at Cowboys rookie minicamp. He initially worked at strong-side (Sam) nickel LB in individual drills with Jabril Cox at Will. Senior assistant George Edwards operated like LBs coach, guiding group through punch, rip and sled work.
Cowboys plan to use some 3-4 base alignment under DC Dan Quinn. With only three linebackers, team doesn’t have minicamp personnel to support that. So it seemed natural for nickel package to be a focus area. Parsons should see work at Mike before long.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL