Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith is playing for his career in Tampa

Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports /

Tyron Smith is having a horrific year, in this, his 12th NFL season with the Dallas Cowboys. The former ninth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft has had a Hall of Fame career in Dallas, but the prime years are a distant memory and all that remain are impossible standards set by Tyron himself.

The past few years have been a slow decline in some ways. Injuries have taken some of the dominance that once oozed from Smith’s pores. Yet Smith was so physically dominant to start with, built so far more superiorly to others, he had talent to give.

Even at 80 percent, Tyron Smith was a Pro Bowl-level offensive tackle in the NFL. He wasn’t available for every game but when he was, he was brilliant. That’s not the case here in the 2022 season…

Tyron Smith has struggled at right tackle for the Dallas Cowboys and if he doesn’t show out well in the postseason, his career may be over.

As a point of reference, we look to Pro Football Focus. Say what you will about PFF but they’ve always been consistent with Smith and have always graded him with high regard. So when a season like this comes along where his biggest supporters all take note of his decline, everyone should take notice.

as recently as last season, Smith graded out as the second-best OT in the entire NFL.

Since 2013, PFF has graded Tyron Smith in the top-16 every single season. Six of those seasons he finished in the top-10, and as recently as last season, Smith graded out as the second-best OT in the entire NFL.

This season, that has changed significantly.

Given the number of games missed, Smith doesn’t fall into the usual rankings, but his 59.8 grade is by far a career worst and had he had the snaps to qualify for ranking, he would fall in the high 60s. That’s foreign territory for the former All-Pro Smith.

Speaking of foreign territory, Smith is playing the right side of the line for the first time since his rookie season. It stands to reason this plays a huge factor in his grades since the move from left to right requires a complete flip in muscle memory.

When asked about his slow development, Mike McCarthy had this to say:

"“That’s why you go to training camp,” McCarthy said of the difficult transition. “That’s why padded practice is so important. It isn’t ‘Does Tyron Smith know how to play right tackle?’ Absolutely he does but he needs to work combination blocks, stunts, games and E-Ts and all those things. He’s getting his work in live action because of when he came back.”"

Smith is on the books for over $17 million in 2023 and that simply cannot stand. He knows it and the Dallas Cowboys know it. Whether a new deal is struck or an outright release is made, will likely depend on how well Smith plays in the postseason.

Terence Steele is the RT of the future in Dallas but he’s coming off a significant knee injury suffered late in the year. He’s not going to be 100 by Week 1 next season. If Tyron shows he can play RT (something he hasn’t done to-date), the Cowboys would love to have him back – provided it’s at the right price.

But if Smith struggles again like he did in Washington, it makes little sense to bring him back under any cost.

Sports Dallas Fort-Worth
Sports Dallas Fort-Worth /

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The Cowboys and Bucs playoff matchup has obviously high stakes for this season but Tyron Smith’s performance in that game (and hopefully into later rounds) will have high stakes for his career.