The Dallas Cowboys made a very surprising roster move this week. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Cowboys have cut linebacker Jaylon Smith who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2019. This comes as the Cowboys have won their last three games after losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season opener last month.
The Cowboys reportedly were looking to trade Smith earlier in the season, but a deal could never get done. Releasing Smith means the Cowboys are free from the $9.2 million base salaries in 2022 that was guaranteed for injury. Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones met with Smith Tuesday to discuss him being released.
The Cowboys cutting Smith is surprising considering he hasn’t missed a game since suffering a torn ACL and MCL in 2016. Smith missed the entire 2016 season due to his injuries but has played in every game since the start of the 2017 season. In 2019, Smith totaled 142 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one interception, which led to him being named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. But due to the issues the Cowboys defense went through last year, Smith has received his share of criticism.
“I mean, I don’t care who you are, you’re going to have a criticism,” Smith said on the team’s official website in July. “Michael Jordan had criticism. LeBron James, some of the best players in the world has criticism. That’s just a part of the game. But you got to control what you can control. And for me, it’s just focused on my development and becoming a better player.”
This season, Smith has not started in any games and has recorded 19 tackles in 148 snaps. The Cowboys drafted Micah Parsons this year and he has made a huge impression early, leading to the Cowboys making the move on Smith. The team also has rookies Jabril Cox and Luke Gifford to go along with veterans Keanu Neal and Leighton Vander Esch to solidify the linebacker position.
Smith was drafted in the second round in 2016. He would have likely been drafted in the first round, but the ACL and MCL injuries scared some teams off. The injuries happened in his final game at Notre Dame, which was the Fiesta Bowl at Ohio State. He had a monster 2015 season, recording 115 tackles, nine tackles for loss, one sack, and nine passes defended. Smith’s play in 2015 led to him being named a consensus All-American and the winner of the College Dick Butkus Award which is given to the nation’s top linebacker.