Jaylon Smith may be under contract with the Dallas Cowboys through 2025, but the linebacker faces a very uncertain future with the franchise. After playing just 25% of snaps in Week 1, Smith’s workload increased to 76% of plays against the Chargers.
The Cowboys moved Micah Parsons to defensive end for the majority of Week 2 as a result of injuries to the line that contributed to Smith’s increased snaps. Smith is going to be a popular name heading toward’s the November NFL trade deadline. Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine believes the Eagles would be a perfect fit for Smith to get a fresh start.
“The Eagles don’t have to look far to find the first name on the list. Jaylon Smith has been a mainstay for the division rival Dallas Cowboys, but his role on the team is diminishing,” Ballentine detailed. “With the arrival of Micah Parsons through the draft and Keanu Neal in free agency, Smith has become the odd man out in the Cowboys linebacker rotation. Smith is a 26-year-old who was a Pro Bowler in 2019. In other words, he’s still in his athletic prime and has played at a high level in the NFL.
“In Philadelphia, he would be able to slot into the linebacker corps as a starter. The unit has struggled through the first two weeks of the season. Eric Wilson, Alex Singleton and Genard Avery have seen the most action at linebacker, but none have been all that impactful.”
There would be an obvious hesitance to trade Smith within the division, especially to a rival like the Eagles. However, we saw the Cowboys and Eagles do a draft-night deal, proving they are not opposed to working together if a trade helps both teams.
Smith Has 4 Seasons Remaining After 2021 as Part of His 6-Year, $68 Million Contract
Even if the Cowboys recognize their newfound depth at linebacker, trading Smith is easier said than done thanks to a nearly untradeable contract. Smith has a six-year, $68 million deal that runs through 2025 with a salary of $7.2 million for this season. This number goes all the way up to $12.3 million during the final year of his contract.
Smith’s production has also dropped since making the Pro Bowl for his 2019 campaign. Through the first two games, Smith earned a 58.2 score from Pro Football Focus. The veteran linebacker had an even worse grade in 2020 earning a 54.2.
What could the Cowboys expect in a potential deal for Smith? Dallas would likely need to eat some of his contract in exchange for a mid-to-late round future draft pick.
The Cowboys Could Release Smith After the 2021 Season
Since joining Dallas, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has been complimentary of Smith. After the Cowboys’ narrow loss to the Bucs in Week 1, Quinn indicated that the team would be rotating their linebackers from week to week based on the matchup. In addition to Parsons and Smith, the Cowboys top linebackers include Leighton Vander Esch and Jabril Cox.
“I would say this is early, and we’re certainly expecting those guys to play a lot,” Quinn noted, per DallasCowboys.com. “Some games, they’ll play a ton. Some games, it will be more balanced. I feel like we’ve got four excellent linebackers. …I’d expect games to be different as the season goes on. …I trust them in all spaces. I thought both of them played strong and well in their reps. …Both of them [Smith and Vander Esch] are equally equipped to handle all of the stuff. I would expect that to move around as the season progresses.”
Even if the Cowboys opt to hang onto Smith this season, Dallas has a potential out within his contract this offseason. The Cowboys would still have a $6.8 million dead cap hit if they release Smith prior to the 2022 season, per Spotrac.