The Dallas Cowboys announced on Wednesday that they’ve released Pro Bowl linebacker Jaylon Smith. The move comes after the franchise unsuccessfully attempted to trade Smith in recent weeks.
Smith, who was the team’s second-round pick in 2016, has seen limited snaps this season and was a starter just twice. He was previously started every regular-season game Dallas played between 2018 and 2020.
The move comes as a surprise, considering the Cowboys won’t get any cap relief by releasing Smith. They will also have to pay him the entirety of his $7.2 million salary for 2021. However, Dallas is off the hook for the player’s $9.2 million salary for next year that was guaranteed only for injury.
The Cowboys most likely felt comfortable releasing Smith due to the emergence of their 2021’s first-round pick Micah Parsons. They also have All-Pro linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, Pro Bowler Keanu Neal, and rookies Jabril Cox and Luke Gifford as part of their LB core.
During his junior year with Notre Dame, Jaylon Smith established himself as the top-five pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. But a severe knee injury caused his stocks to drop, and he fell all the way to second rounds where the Cowboys waited.
Cowboys took a gamble on Smith, and it ended up paying off as he established himself as a reliable defensive presence for the team after returning to action in 2017. In 68 games in the Cowboys jersey, Smith contributed with 515 tackles, 9.0 sacks, two interceptions, 20 pass deflections, six forced fumbles, and one defensive touchdown. He has one Pro Bowl selection which he picked up in 2019.
While Dallas believes they are better off without Smith, the chances are that the 26-year-old won’t spend too much time on the free-agent market.