Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith has steadily seen his role shrink and the calls for his roster spot are becoming louder and more frequent. Smith has dealt with a myriad of obstacles but this last hurdle is very different.
Just like most Dallas Cowboys topics, what to do with Jaylon Smith has been a hotly debated topic. There are those who have a clear eye view on his performance and are fed up with his inability to avoid blockers at the second level, is a tick late diagnosing plays, and have lateral movement issues where him covering the flats is a defensive liability.
Then there are those fans who see him as a defensive catalyst who can still perform at a high level. I am starting to think that those who are ferociously defending Jaylon Smith are more in love with his story and brand than they are his actual play on the field.
I hate to use the eye test but it is clearly evident Jaylon is struggling to keep up with the younger faster toys. He has become the old guy in the room yet he is only 26 years old. I might be in the minority here but I think Jaylon’s inability to take criticism is one of the biggest reasons why a large portion of fans have turned on him.
When asked about his performance, Jaylon usually gives a generic answer such as “watch the film”. A person with good awareness would either give the fans an answer that makes them feel like the player is aware his performance was not up to standards and vowing to play better is something he will work on.
I’m sorry to say but looking at the film is the reason we are asking those kinds of questions.
Instead, Jaylon buried his head in the sand regarding his performance and now the media is asking those who wield the power if he is going to get cut. The current answer everyone is getting is that Jaylon Smith will not be cut.
Either way, surrounding yourself with your supporters is probably not a good way of getting better. Sometimes people need to hear what they are doing wrong so they can correct themselves but in this day and age, criticism is an enemy and some chose to ignore it entirely.
That is a bad choice as the collision this train is headed towards is only gaining speed.
Jaylon Smith the player, has had difficulties with his awareness on and off the field but it might be time for him to acknowledge his deficiencies and look to the long term.
When it comes to football, the spotlight shines brightest when you wear the star on the side of your helmet. Jaylon cashed in when he inked a five-year $63.75 million contract. His endorsement deals push his overall value even further up the food chain.
Jaylon Smith is scheduled to be the sixth highest-paid Dallas Cowboys player this season. His salary-cap number this season is larger than bookends Tyron Smith and La’el Collins yet his importance to this team is significantly less than the two tackles I just mentioned.
You have to ask yourself if Jaylon Smith gets injured, does the outlook of the team change as much as if Dak Prescott or Tyron Smith were to get injured? I don’t think it does.
If released, the Dallas Cowboys would receive zero salary cap space and the team would be on the hook for his entire salary which is $9.8 million. This should make his release a moot point as chances of this happening are very slim.
Trading Smith would give the team about $2.6 million in cap space but the team would have to eat the balance of his $9.8 million which is $7.2 million. This is a more feasible plan but also unlikely. Trying to find someone to take on that salary could also be a problem.
Smith had his 2019 and 2020 salaries guaranteed meaning the team could have moved on from Smith before the fifth day of the current league year yet they obviously kept him around. At the end of the year, Smith will have a running total of $20.2 million of money made on his current deal.
This brings me to my solution. What we forget is that Jaylon still has value here in Dallas. He is still loved by a large portion of fans and he can do some positive things on the field. Should the Dallas Cowboys approach him about a pay cut?
Jaylon has to be aware that his time in Dallas as a starter are probably numbered. Not noticing that is another awareness issue. Drafting Micah Parson in the first round should have sent a clear message to Jaylon that everyone can be replaced.
Jaylon on the open market could generate some suitors but free-agent linebacker K.J. Wright, who I view as the better linebacker, is having trouble getting a two-year deal meaning football earnings could become scarce.
Jaylon accepting a pay cut would give him security beyond this season but would reduce his cap number to where having him as a backup would not be an issue. If Jaylon is a backup on this defense on a smaller salary, the calls for his roster spot almost instantly disappear.
He could continue to push his brand while still being able to call himself a Dallas Cowboys player. This also lengthens his career as Jaylon on a different team feels like the end of his football career. At the very least, journeyman Jaylon Smith feels like his likeliest outcome of staying in the league.
Having faith that a pay cut is coming is not something that you should hold your breath for.
The Dallas Cowboys have done a bad job dealing with aging veterans. Last season, the team could have saved a very large amount of money if they offered former defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford a pay cut or release yet they chose to keep him even though he was clearly at the end of his playing days.
I could be wrong about all of this, but his play on the field and the inability to get a straightforward answer from the Dallas Cowboys front office feel like the team would jump at the chance to move Jaylon Smith if the penalty was digestible.
My guess, Jaylon Smith plays this season at a reduced role and the team releases him at the end of the season. Smith struggles to find consistent work while the Dallas Cowboys get much-needed salary cap relief. A pay cut in the league can be embarrassing but making millions to play a game is nothing to be embarrassed about.