Dallas Cowboys: Is left tackle Tyron Smith really in decline?

Tyron Smith #77 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Tyron Smith #77 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Recent chatter has suggested Tyron Smith is in decline and it may time to think about replacing him so today we look at the former All-Pro’s play and decide.

For nearly a decade Tyron Smith has been holding down the tackle position for the Dallas Cowboys. The seven time Pro Bowler and two time All Pro has been one of the cornerstones of the Dallas offense and a fan favorite of Cowboys Nation.

Persistent injuries have led to talk of his decline and possibly a need to replace. Playing one of the most important positions on the team, it’s a concern that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Luckily for us we don’t need to rely on “gut feelings” to determine the legitimacy of this debate. By tracking penalties, snap counts, and performance grades we can objectively determine whether Tyron Smith is an asset or liability moving forward.


There’s no question Tyron has dealt with his share of injuries the past few seasons. Most notably is a chronic back condition that never seems to fully disappear. These issues have caused Tyron to miss three games in each of the last four seasons.

While none of this is great news and it requires the Dallas Cowboys to employ a capable swing tackle every year, Tyron’s never missed more than three full games. His injury problems are not likely to go away, but they also haven’t increased in frequency or severity


there are currently 10 left tackles (and 14 total tackles) in the NFL who are paid more that Tyron Smith.

In 2019 Tyron Smith got slapped with seven total penalties: 5 holding flags, 1 false start, and one declined/offset. Looking back they were what scientists call “ticky-tacky”. Over half of the calls were suspect and if holding was consistently called that way across the league, Green Bay would probably have exceeded Tyron’s five in one half of action.

But enough about how often the Packers get away with holding…

So the question is how does this penalty count compare to the rest of his career? Tyron Smith’s career average of penalties per season is 7.75. Now some of those come from 16-game seasons and some come from 13-game seasons like he had last year, but as you can see the numbers are pretty similar. Factor in that ticky-tacky nature of the calls and you should have little reason for concern.


We’ve established Tyron Smith has been playing with nagging injuries for the better part of four seasons and we’ve seen his penalties per game haven’t increased too severely (only had 0.54 penalties per game in 2019 compared to 0.6 per game over the three seasons prior). But how is he executing his tasks?

Tyron Smith finished last season outside of the top-10 in pass-block win rate and rated as Pro Football Focus’ 16th offensive tackle in the NFL. That’s a far cry from his 2015 season where he was the top ranked OT in the league and posted PFF’s highest OT score ever awarded.

So it’s safe to say Tyron Smith has declined and probably will never reach the peak he was at five years ago. But it’s important to put this in perspective. Just because Smith is unlikely to reproduce his 2015 performance does not mean he’s pedestrian and near replacement level.

Even playing at 75% Tyron is still arguably a top-7 LT in the NFL. He’s particularly dominant in pass protection and still possesses the strength and agility to be a force on the move.


In 2014 Tyron Smith signed a massive eight-year, $110 million dollar deal to keep him with the Dallas Cowboys through the entirety of his career. Choosing long-term security over maximizing his compensation, Tyron undoubtedly left money on the table had he hit the market again today.

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In the NFL’s ever-inflating market, lesser tackles are going for considerably more than Tyron’s average salary of $12.2 million. According to Spotrac, there are currently 10 left tackles (and 14 total tackles) in the NFL who are paid more that Tyron Smith. That number can be expected to only grow throughout the course of Tyron’s contract. To say he’s a bargain is a massive understatement.


All things considered, the Dallas Cowboys have a significant asset in Tyron Smith. While he’s not the All-World player he once was, he’s still elite in this league and bargain by all measures. And at age 29, he still has plenty of good football ahead of him.

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The Dallas Cowboys should always be concerned with Tyron Smith’s health, but they needn’t be worried about his play. He’s worth more than what he’s being paid and he’s still a cornerstone for the team. He requires a good LT2 (swing tackle) waiting in the wings but that’s a small price to pay for everything he offers.

  • Published on 05/20/2020 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 05/20/2020 at 09:19 AM