Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
Here’s a name you probably expected to see. The linebacker seems to be getting worse every passing week leaving more and more fans in awe at how he pulled off that magical 2018 season. While we may never know the answer, we do know moving on from his awful contract is the way.
Get ready for a lot of cringing, these numbers aren’t pretty. In 2020, Jaylon Smith is owed $13.171 million but he comes with a dead cap of $23 million. This likely explains why the Cowboys weren’t even going to test the waters on his trade value this year and likely why they won’t bench him.
Next season, Smith is expected to earn $7.2 million with a $9.4 million dead cap hit. Trading him wouldn’t necessarily help you save that much money but it does prevent the team from having to pay over $43 million for the following four years. There are serious implications at hand if the Cowboys can deal his contract away to someone.
The issue with all of this, who would want Smith? Mentally he is far behind what the team and fans expected of him. He doesn’t have the athleticism to cover the pass in today’s NFL or the speed to travel from sideline to sideline. Also, he doesn’t possess the aggression necessary to stop the run near the LOS. Does he lead the NFL in tackles? Yes, but do those tackles come well past the LOS? Also yes.
For someone touted as a good pass-rushing linebacker, it is completely inexcusable that he only has half a sack, five tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits thus far in the 2020 NFL season.
Who would want Smith? Likely a team that plays a lot of nickel or dime. In general, teams have shifted to a “base nickel” approach but the fewer opportunities Smith is given to cover the pass the better he’ll likely be. A system similar to that of what former DC Rod Marinelli ran in Dallas is where he likely succeeds once again.
However, it isn’t even his play that’s the issue. The biggest issue surrounding Smith will always be his contract. A player like him should not have gotten the contract he did and the Cowboys will likely have buyer’s remorse until he flips the 2018 switch again.
Most importantly, getting Jaylon Smith off the roster gives opportunities to the younger linebackers currently behind Smith. When Leighton Vander Esch had to sit out with a collarbone injury, Joe Thomas was solid filling in. Other players like Luke Gifford and Francis Bernard are in need of playing time as they have shown flashes in the past.
Unlike the Amari Cooper situation, the team will struggle to deal with the financial repercussions of this deal, but they will likely get better as a result of the transaction. In the words of Bucky Brooks, it’s “addition by subtraction.” (Okay, what does this actually mean?)