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Cowboys OT Conundrum: Tyron Smith’s Modest Contract vs Increasing Absences

There may not be a single player on the with a more confounding contract situation than Offensive Tyron Smith. While the veteran’s missed a lot of playing time over the last two years, he’s still a solid performer when healthy and has a very reasonable salary compared to other NFL left tackles. It leaves Dallas with a tough decision to make about Smith’s future with the team.

It was one thing with Tyron missed three games each year from 2016-2019. Some of those absences were voluntary; veteran rest in meaningless season finales. Others weren’t as painless but at least weren’t happening enough to make the All-Pro tackle a liability.

But now Smith has missed 20 games over the last two years. He was out for nearly all of 2020 following neck and then missed six games in 2021 with ankle issues.

Though Dallas managed to still go 4-2 during Tyron’s absences last season, the two losses against Denver and Kansas City were critical. The Cowboys may very well have earned the top seed in the with wins in those games, and who knows the difference that could’ve made to their playoff fortunes?

The good news on Tyron Smith is that last year’s ankle issues weren’t ongoing complications from his chronic neck and shoulder problems. If those are finally behind, the 31-year-old Smith could reasonably return in 2022 and still provide strong play at for at least another season or more.

Still, 20 missed games in two years is staggering. has spoken to “availability” being the most important ability of any player; a potential indictment of anyone like Tyron who has become increasingly unable to stay on the field.

Tyron Smith
Cowboys OT Tyron Smith

The Cowboys are currently $13.5 million over the 2022 salary cap and obviously need to make some moves. They could save about $5.5 million by releasing Smith outright or $13.5 million if they make him a June-1st cut.

However, there’s nobody currently on the roster that you’d want taking over at left tackle. Neither La’el Collins or would be good there and , a in 2022, is nothing more than a backup. Fourth-round pick from 2021 can’t be relied on at this time for anything, having missed his year with an ankle injury and getting the NFL’s version of redshirted.

So yes, you’d create cap space by cutting Tyron. But you’d also have to spend way more than $5.5 million to replace him with an adequate starting left tackle, or you’d be taking the huge gamble of hoping a quality starter falls to you in the 2022 Draft.

What’s really perplexing with Smith’s contract is that he’s now a bargain compared to his peers. While Trent Williams, David Bakhtiari, and are all making $22-$23 million annually, Tyron is currently averaging just $12.2 million on the long-term contract he signed back in 2014. He’s only the 23rd-most expensive tackle in the NFL going into the .

Even with a scheduled 2022 cap hit of $17.5 million a healthy Smith can still be a steal for the Cowboys.

That’s the issue; health!  Can Tyron keep the chronic issues at bay for at least one last season and reward Dallas’ loyalty? And depending on their faith in his availability going forward, has that loyalty finally run out?

I know it feels like you read this same article every offseason, but until the issue goes away then it’s an annual talking point. Tyron Smith is still eating up a lot of cap space and spending way too much time at home or on the sideline during the season. It’s a problem the Cowboys have to contend with this year, and every year, until its resolved.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by 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!

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17 Comments

  1. Man you hit the nail on the head. Smith is still a solid player even with all the injuries ESPN still has him ranked as the 9th best OT. Nobody has pointed out what you did. We have a below average Head Coach. Two strong OC and DC currently at least. But when we needed a run game we had nothing, our OC has been getting bashed for calls in the WC game but had to throw on third and short because the interior line as you said not only j could not move anyone not only in that game but most of the end of the season. Then we get killed because up the middle on pass plays they stopped no one. So we have Smith blocking their best outside pass rusher but also trying to help our pathetic inside blockers. Zeke is great as a promotional asset but his best days are behind him without a well above average line you right. Love the guy but a average running back with a cap friendly salary can be a 1200 yard rusher behind a strong line. I like Jerry Jones and have always defended him but I feel his tendency to stand by his man even when the writings on the wall always kills the Cowboys. Unless he cuts out Head coach loose, just like Green Bay did after so many years of him riding Arron Rogers arm. Our Team deserves better. The team had success despite our HC not because of him. You really hit most of the nails on the head. My only additional comment to yours is the lack of basic fundamental discipline is not acceptable players get with the program or move on. Championships come with discipline and comment. And the same is required from the front office. Jerry spends a heck of a lot of money that other owners won’t . Stop pinning the lack of winning the big one on Jerry. Get a line that can get that one line and not get you backed up five yards every critical third and one. Make the tough decision to let Zeke go and be the Dallas Cowboys that have been Americans team. Not a bunch of over paid over hyped players, coaches and front office folks that have made me a punch line every time I proudly go out with my $25 hat showing the star and all our 20 year old and more Championships. My $100.00 Jacket and too many other Cowboys marketing items. Like you pointed out, fix the basics and stop blaming the few real stars like Smith and Martin that put it on the line every game on the O-line when ask to cover for other below average players.

    A 45 year long angry Dallas Cowboy fan

  2. Smith is a good player, not as great as before. But his hit on the cap is a plus. You can not expect a offensive lineman to be a every down player. We only have two strong linemen Smith and Martin, both are aging with above average skills. Less than in their prime. The issue is every other lineman we have are average at best. We have no backups that are skilled enough to use in a real rotation that can be counted on. Elliot is overrated, his salary is a liability and without a incredible line like we once had can’t get it done, Dallas has always had several running backs win the rushing title. Because of a great line. Pollard currently is the better running back because of his speed and elusivenesses, not the dominance of our line. Dallas could not even get one yard for a first down man time during the year. That an issue with the center of the line not with Smith. Dallas must get back to the basics. Shore up the line, keep Martin and Smith. The rest are expendable, establish a solid line rotation that will get the inside run game moving, this will help everyone. Make Pollard number on, Elliot needs to take a pay cut or move on. That is just the way it is your asking Smith to pass protect over and over because our line can not move anyone other than behind Martin. You can have all the stars in the world but no interior line means no third or four and one getting done. It also shows why Shultz became a key player because no interior line means no time so our big guns at WR and Slot receivers are wasted. The O-line needs the attention and Smith can an will be a solid performer and CAP asset if he is only ask to do his job and not others too.

    Thank you for your time

  3. Another thing I forgot to mention…. In case you guys that for some reason THINK he’s not good anymore forgot, he is going to the pro bowl this year, and that’s after he missed 5 or 6 games this season!! You don’t get voted to the pro bowl unless your one of the best at the position, so apparently Tyron is still a top left tackle in the NFL, and apparently he’s still talented enough to keep or he wouldn’t have been voted to the pro bowl!!

    • Not all Pro Bowl trips are deserved. Guys like Flozell Adams and Andre Gurode made a bunch of Pro Bowls because they played for the Cowboys and got way more votes based on fanbase size and a notoriety advantage. Tyron Smith is a household name that casuals vote for because they’ve heard of him.

      • Tyron Smith didn’t make it to the pro bowl cause of the fan base and notoriety advantage!! If that was the reason he made it, then Amari Cooper, would’ve made it, Zeke would’ve made it Demarcus Lawrence would’ve made it, Randy Gregory would’ve made it other than being an alternate, and the same with Ceedee Lamb!! Tyron Smith is still a really good player and is worth keeping on the team rather you wanna admit it or not!!

  4. I don’t care if Tyron misses a few games a season, he’s still one of the best tackles in the NFL!! He’s not the best anymore but he’s at least the 2nd best, and his cap hit is worth keeping him!! The reason he missed games before was because of his neck and back issues, but he got that fixed last off season, and if it wasn’t for Connor McGovern, he more than likely would have played this whole season without missing a game!! McGovern is the reason Smith had the ankle issues this season!! I don’t care what anybody says, Tyron is still one of the best tackles in the NFL and there’s no way to replace his talent, unless you wanna pay double the salary that we’re paying Tyron!! I think we’re better off keeping him and just finding a good backup to cover for him in case he has to miss a game or 2 here and there!! I say we keep him until he decides it’s time to retire!! That would be the smart thing to do!!

      • The only reason he missed that many games in the last 2 seasons is cause he has surgery to fix his neck and back problems last season!! He only missed 5 games this season and the only reason that happened is cause his own teammate (Connor McGovern) fell on his ankle causing the injury!! And the reason he missed games before last season was cause of his neck and back problems…. So those problems are out of the way now, which is why he didn’t miss any games for that reason this season!! You people can say what you want, but he’s still one of the best tackles in the NFL and he’s under one of the cheapest contracts at his position in the NFL for his talent!! His contract alone is worth keeping him around!! Letting him go would be one of the dumbest things that you could do!!

  5. Unfortunately Tyron is a liability even when he is playing. He may be better than average, but his diminishing skills are leading to way too many penalties. If I had to guess the Cowboys will be looking to draft his replacement this year and give that player a year of development behind Smith. The whole line needs to be rebuilt. La’el is somewhat serviceable but needs to regain his early dominance. Left guard and center need an upgrade through free agency or the draft. Last year was the year of defense. This year I see them going heavy on the O line and maybe linebacker and replacements for the wr core.

    • In looking at games played per season, it looks like Tyron started missing games around 2016. Connor Williams was drafted in 2018 after playing LT at U Texas, seemingly as a possible future replacement for Tyron. Connor was thought by Draft experts to have a body type and good footwork better suited for tackle than at guard where the Cowboys eventually would move him. Jess, had the Cowboys ever seriously considered Connor at LT in recent years as more games were being lost by Tyron each season? Neck surgery can be touchy, glad Tyron managed to overcome that. Might the Cowboys be giving up on Connor too soon?

      • I know Williams has received practice reps at OT before for emergency duty but not with any real consideration for making him a full-time tackle. They drafted him to play guard, for whatever reason.

    • The difficult question is how much of Tyron’s decline in performance is due to the injuries. He looked great early this season but then the struggles came when he started getting banged up again. It’s hard to evaluate how much of the “diminishing” is due to that or just general, irreversible issues like age.

  6. I couldn’t agree more…. It’s time to pay the players for their current worth. Not their past. Managing the Cap is a HUGE part of taking competitive. It’s time to take a good hard look.

  7. The Boys rely too much on past performances. TSmith has not been a top tackle for several years and is less and less able to play. TSmith, Cooper, Elliott, are huge cap hits but only average performers.now. They can produce an occasional big game, but can you spend 25% of cap for that? TSmith has had a fantastic career but it is ending .
    Cooper and Elliott are young but have regressed very far.
    Just as with Jalen Smith , at some point a team has to accept current capabilities and move on.

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