The Dallas Cowboys officially cut ties with veteran linebacker Jaylon Smith on Wednesday. Head Coach Mike McCarthy said the release of veteran linebacker Jaylon Smith “wasn’t an easy decision” for the franchise, but ultimately a “whole roster change”.
“We felt it was time to do it,” McCarthy said. “I just think like anything, there are always factors involved in how you build your 90-man roster. … Jaylon is an excellent footballer. There are other factors involved in this decision.
“He played good football for us. In my time with him, he totally embraced the new direction of the program and everything that we did. The guy trains every day and has a blast. I have nothing but respect for him.
The obvious reason is the $ 9.2 million guarantee Smith would receive in 2022 if he were injured. It was reported that Dallas wanted Smith to cancel this part of his contract and he rightfully refused. While the actual movement wasn’t surprising, the timing was. So the question remains, what now?
Micah Parsons, Jabril Cox, Keanu Neal, Leighton Vander Esch and Luke Gifford are the current string of deployable rotating linebackers for the Cowboys. Neal is expected to return this week after missing the previous two games due to COVID and all eyes are on Cox to receive a time increase after Smith leaves. Defensive end Bradlee Anae is also expected to return from the COVID list.
But the new open linebacker position goes beyond just dragging one of their current players up. Currently, Dallas is missing DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Neville Gallimore, Carlos Watkins and Donovan Wilson with injuries.
We know defensive coordinator Dan Quinn likes to show multiple fronts at the base, whether 43 or 34 in defense.
Defensive Line – Randy Gregory / Tarrell Basham, Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gaillimore, DeMarcus Lawrence / Dorance Armstrong
Linebackers – Micah Parsons, Keanu Neal, Leighton Vander Esch / Jabril Cox
Defensive backs – Trevon Diggs, Damontae Kazee / Malik Hooker, Donovan Wilson / Jayron Kearse, Anthony Brown
Defensive Line – Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gaillimore, DeMarcus Lawrence
Linebacker – Randy Gregory (OLB), Keanu Neal / Jabril Cox (MLB), Leight Vander Esch / Jayron Kearse (MLB), Micah Parsons (OLB)
Defensive backs – Trevon Diggs, Damontae Kazee / Malik Hooker, Donovan Wilson, Anthony Brown
At full strength, the Dallas Cowboys are versatile enough to better ensure their talent is maximized. With Smith on the list at his cap number, there was no big chance you would DNP – especially since he was just a defensive captain against Carolina.
While this is a move you wish you could have done in the offseason, it still gives Dallas a chance to be faster and more athletic, while using all of their throwaway on defense.