Cowboys’ $97 Million Veteran Named Free Agent Dallas ‘Can’t Afford to Lose’


Getty Images The Cowboys and Jerry Jones will have some difficult decisions to make in free agency.

The Dallas Cowboys could be about to lose a keystone of one of the NFL’s most dominant offensive lines.

Tyron Smith has been one of the greatest offensive tackles of his era, but after the Cowboys failed to reach an agreement with the 33-year-old, the veteran offensive tackle is likely heading to free agency.

In an offseason where the NFL salary cap has reached an unprecedented $255.4 million, Smith could see a strong market with teams flush with spending flexibility. That’s not the situation the Cowboys find themselves in, currently projected to be $4.03 million over the cap.

However, CBS Sports lists Smith as the one free agent the Cowboys “can’t afford to lose.”

“The Dallas Cowboys and eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith are headed toward a parting of ways after 13 seasons together since 2011,” Garrett Podell writes. “NFL Media reported Smith is unlikely to return to Dallas for the 2024 season.

“However, the Cowboys can’t afford to lose him. The five-time All-Pro, while struggling to stay healthy the last few seasons –only playing in 45% of Dallas’ games the last four seasons — Smith played in 13 of the Cowboys’ 17 regular season games this past season as well as their playoff game against the Packers. In the regular season, Smith only allowed one sack and 16 quarterback pressures, barely more than one per game.”

What is Tyron Smith’s Market Value?

Smith appears primed to hit free agency for the first time, since signing an eight-year deal worth  $97.6 million in 2016.

In a year where elite offensive tackles could be hard to come by in free agency, Smith is primed to be the best available at the position. Likewise, Smith remains an elite talent, finishing the 2023 season with an elite 88.6 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus and an 83.8 overall mark.

According to Spotrac, Smith could command a one-year contract worth $7.4 million. That deal would make Smith the 18th-highest-paid left tackle in the league.

How Could Cowboys Replace Tyron Smith? 

The Cowboys can release some of the pressure in terms of cap space this offseason by agreeing to a new contract extension with Dak Prescott or restructuring his deal.

However, even if Prescott’s cap number dips significantly in 2024, the Cowboys are likely to earmark an early-round draft pick to a left tackle who can protect the quarterback’s blindside.

Pro Football Focus projects the Cowboys could select University of Washington offensive tackle Troy Fautanu with the No. 24 overall selection, as Smith’s replacement.

“The Cowboys need to prepare for life after Tyron Smith at left tackle,” Gordon McGuinness writes. “Tyler Smith spent all his rookie season at left tackle before kicking inside to guard this past season. While Fautanu has the potential to be a tackle at the next level, he should also be a good prospect at guard should the Cowboys want to move Smith back outside.”

According to PFF, Fautanu allowed just two sacks and three quarterback hits during a stellar 2023 campaign that the outlet awarded the 6-foot-4 and 317-pound behemoth a 75.1 overall grade.

If Jerry Jones and the Cowboys are even more aggressive in aiming to fill the void left behind by Smith’s likely departure, Dallas could trade up in the draft for either Penn State’s Olu Fashanu or Notre Dame’s Joe Alt, the two top tackles in this year’s class.

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