The Dallas Cowboys have made plenty of changes to their team this offseason. They have made moves involving their offense, their defense, their coaching staff and even their special teams unit.
With a new defensive coordinator in Dan Quinn, the Cowboys hope to improve that defense in a big way in 2021. From drafting eight defensive players in the NFL draft to signing Quinn’s former players in safety Keanu Neal and safety Damontae Kazee, this can likely put this team in the right direction next season.
On top of the defense possibly moving in the right direction, the Dallas Cowboys should get back their whole offense to full strength. Quarterback Dak Prescott only played in five games last season and tackle La’el Collins, tackle Tyron Smith and guard Zack Martin played zero snaps together. Additionally, running back Ezekiel Elliott is looking better than ever, according to multiple reports.
However, not every move that Dallas has made this offseason was considered “great.” There were opportunities when America’s Team should have pounced on opportunities, but rather they decided not to. One move that they should have made this offseason involved trading away one of their former Pro Bowlers.
Trading away linebacker Jaylon Smith
One of the biggest moves that the Dallas Cowboys should have made this offseason was trading away linebacker Jaylon Smith. The former Pro Bowler arguably had his worst season in 2020 but was gaining interest from other teams around the league.
According to PFF, Smith finished the season with a grade of just 52.4, which is down from his 70.2 grade in 2019. Although his numbers were solid this past season (career-high 154 tackles), stats can be extremely deceiving.
The former Notre Dame star wasn’t as solid as Dallas fans had hoped he would be especially against the run. Last season, he finished with a run rate of just 40 percent which ranked 85th in the league. Additionally, Smith was responsible for eight penalties, which was tied for first among other linebackers in the league.
The 154 tackles by Smith in 2020 were second-most in the NFL behind Houston Texans’ linebacker Zach Cunningham. Even 89 solo tackles by the former second-round pick ranked fourth in the NFL. However, this is where stats can be deceiving.
In the past couple of seasons, the Cowboys’ linebacker was seen as someone who had the potential to be one of the best in the league. Furthermore, he was shown as a playmaker who could make plays all over the field.
Now, Smith can be seen as a huge liability for this defense. The 6-foot-2 linebacker will likely make solid plays from time to time. However, his contract should have been the biggest reason that Dallas moved on from him.
The 26-year-old linebacker signed a five-year, $64 million extension in 2019. Moreover, Smith’s cap hit is $9.8 million in 2021 and will increase to $11.8 million in 2022. Since the Cowboys just paid quarterback Dak Prescott $160 million over four seasons, Dallas is probably running out of money to pay anyone else.
Next season, the Cowboys approximately already have a cap space of -$25.2 million. By trading away Smith, this would clear up more cap space for not only next season but this season as well. They could look to add more pieces in the secondary since their linebacking core is already deep as is.
This offseason, the Dallas Cowboys have made many moves regarding their linebacker group. With the 12th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, Dallas selected linebacker Micah Parsons out of Penn State. They also selected linebacker Jabril Cox from LSU in the fourth round. Furthermore, they signed linebackers Tarell Basham and Keanu Neal (who is moving from safety to linebacker on the Cowboys).
With all these moves to their linebacker core, it would make sense to get rid of Smith. They likely have the replacements for him and could get rid of his big contract. Nonetheless, Dallas chose not to trade away the former Pro Bowler for the time being. Hopefully, he can improve his game in 2021 and play like a superstar once again.