The Dallas Cowboys never hesitated and never flinched. When asked over the winter if Tyron Smith was coming back in 2023, Stephen Jones plainly stated “Yes.”
The 32-year-old veteran offensive tackle was a question mark for many this offseason. Over the past three seasons he’s missed roughly as many games as he made and at a cost of around $16 million, appeared to be an expensive luxury, rather than the cornerstone he was the first decade of his career.
The Dallas Cowboys have already declared Tyron Smith to be their starting right tackle, that is until…
As if Tyron’s return wasn’t surprising enough, Jerry Jones added to the surprise of Cowboys Nation when he declared Smith the expected starter at RT. The right side was previously occupied by the ascending Terence Steele. Steele only gave way to Tyron when Steele fell to an ACL injury late in 2022. He was expected to get his job back.
That is until Jerry named Tyron the starting RT and Steele the swing tackle.
The Cowboys later stated they would consider cross-training Steele inside if their plans to fill the LG spot don’t pan out in the draft. But the point was made – Tyron Smith would be the starting RT.
While Steele is clearly the better run blocker (he’s among the best in the NFL), Tyron is the better pass protector. It’s possible the Dallas Cowboys were just prioritizing skill sets and that’s what drove the decision.
There’s also Tyron’s contract to consider
There’s no way under the sun Tyron would agree to rework his deal to be heavily linked to playing time if he didn’t have assurances he was starting. The renegotiation was about health and availability, after all. If the Dallas Cowboys were going to make Smith the swing tackle, it’s safe to say he would not have accepted a deal based on playing time.
And no, left tackle was not an option Dallas wanted to explore with Tyron. They are committed to develop second year player Tyler Smith at LT and don’t want to mess anything up by constantly bouncing him between inside and outside.
There’s no way under the sun Tyron would agree to rework his deal to be heavily linked to playing time if he didn’t have assurances he was starting.
The plan for RT is simple: Tyron Smith starts until he gets hurt. Then Terence Steele jumps in and takes over. The Cowboys get to ride Tyron’s superior pass-protection as long as they can. They give the future Hall of Famer a fair shake on meeting his playing time incentives. Then, when the inevitable happens, they have a great option, fresh and waiting in the wings. That’s why they’re perfectly happy keeping a top-5 lineman on the bench early. They know how it’s probably going to shake out.
Fans will hem and haw about getting the “five best offensive linemen on the field” but the Dallas Cowboys have a draft strategy in place (they are targeting an offensive lineman) and they understand the tackle position is much more important than the guard position.
If the Cowboys don’t draft a guard with a top-100 pick, they may need to go back to the drawing board with their strategy. But even then, tackle takes priority and guard is one of the easier to fill positions with replacement level players.
Like it or not, the plan is in place. It’s simple and it’s fair. It gives Dallas good depth at the O-line’s most important positions and it’s based on the unavoidably realities of Tyron’s contract incentives.