Anthony Hitchens' Raise May Not Matter Once Jaylon Smith Returns ⋆
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Anthony Hitchens’ Raise May Not Matter Once Jaylon Smith Returns

Anthony Hitchens

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Anthony Hitchens’ Raise May Not Matter Once Jaylon Smith Returns

Anthony Hitchens’ Raise May Not Matter Once Jaylon Smith Returns

Starting middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens will nearly triple his 2017 salary, thanks to a performance-based raise in his contract. However, the Dallas Cowboys may still give his starting job to Jaylon Smith.

Anthony Hitchens

AP Photo/Scott Boehm

As reported by ESPN’s Todd Archer, Hitchens had enough playing time over the last three seasons to increase his base salary from $690K to $1.84 million in 2017, the final year of his rookie contract.

This is a provision for players drafted in the third round or later, rewarding those who emerge early as significant contributors for their teams.

Jaylon Smith is an obstacle for Hitchens

The irony for Hitchens is that Jaylon Smith, last year’s second-round pick, will threaten his job just after getting this raise. The former Notre Dame standout, who was considered an elite draft prospect prior to a major knee injury, is reportedly making progress and on track to play next year.

The bulk of Anthony Hitchens’ playing time has come thanks to problems with other players. Sean Lee missed all of 2014 with an injury and Rolando McClain missed all of 2016 with personal problems, both creating openings for Hitchens to have a larger role than expected. Anthony has performed solidly but has rarely been a standout player.

If Jaylon Smith takes the middle linebacker job as anticipated, Hitchens will likely compete with Damien Wilson for the SAM, or strong side, role on the outside. If Wilson continues developing the way he did this season, though, Hitchens may wind up forced into a versatile bench role.

Downside of Anthony Hitchens’ raise

While more money is rarely a bad thing, there is a way that this raise could actually hurt Anthony Hitchens. His base salary jumps to $1.84 million along with roughly $100k in signing bonus. But this raise is not guaranteed, so now Dallas can shave about $1.8 million off their salary cap for the minimal cost of just the bonus money.

Given Hitchens’ experience and versatility, plus the fact that Jaylon Smith has yet to prove himself, it’s highly unlikely Dallas would make him a cap casualty. Still, it’s interesting to consider how this generally good news for Hitchens comes with some increased liability.

While a loss of his role to Jaylon Smith would certainly hurt, especially with free agency coming in 2018, at least Hitchens should be making a lot more money for his trouble.

Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

  • Russ_Te

    Jaylon Smith’s wikipedia says he started as an OLB then moved “inside” at Notre Dame. Doesn’t say if that was a 3-4 defense.

    It also says 4.4 speed. You’d think that LB would play outside and then Sean Lee at MLB, but they apparently see that a lot differently.

    Landry’s old flex was designed to keep blockers off the MLB – perfect for Lee – but he stays free for tackles anyway. Although he plays outside, Lee reminds me hugely of Jack Lambert. A bit undersized, fast, nose for the unfolding play, can’t get him blocked.

    They probably think Smith can reach either sideline from MLB with his speed. I think you would try to work that in to the blitz packages also.

    Hitchens can provide good utility depth and that raise still is not a lot of $ for that. I heard there was one Cowboy making $18 million on the bench… ;^)

    • Jess Haynie

      I think they will probably keep Lee as the WLB because of the wear and tear reduction. Smith might move out there when Lee’s times is over. Won’t really matter in the nickel scheme, either.

      And I agree that Hitchens isn’t bad depth at $1.9 million. However, if they’re happy with guys like Wilber and Nzeocha, plus another rookie they could add, Hitch may be expendable and put a decent amount of cap room back in play.

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