Jaylon Smith has easily been the most maligned player on the Cowboys' roster for over a year now. But while many are questioning his future in Dallas, Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn is not.
Quinn took time yesterday to praise Smith for being “excellent” to coach and someone he looks to for advice and insight on how the team is doing.
With regressing play in 2019 and an even sharper decline last year, Smith's become the favorite punching bag for many Cowboys fans.
His tone-deaf choice this year to switch to the #9 jersey — still linked to the beloved Tony Romo — only made matters worse.
Dallas may have very well released Smith this offseason if it would've offered more benefit to the salary cap. But at this point, Jaylon appears to be remaining with the Cowboys for at least one more year.
While this may be a source of frustration for some, Dan Quinn doesn't seem to mind.
Dan Quinn said Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith has been “excellent” to coach. Likely to be featured differently than in previous years. They communicate openly about that. Dan: “Someone I definitely lean on for insight of where we are, how we're doing, what's been too much, not enough.”
It's only appropriate that Jaylon steps into a leadership role after Sean Lee's retirement.
This is Smith's sixth year in Dallas, the longest tenure of any active linebacker on the roster. He and Keanu Neal were both products of the 2016 NFL Draft but Neal has spent the last five years in Atlanta.
In fact, only DeMarcus Lawrence and a couple of other players on the whole defense have more NFL years at this point than Jaylon Smith.
For experience and leadership to have value, though, they generally have to be backed up on the field.
Smith doesn't have the credibility of someone like Sean Lee at this point and he'll have to change that quickly if he wants to remain in Dallas beyond 2021.
In 2022, the Cowboys can release Smith outright for $5 million in cap relief, or $9.2 million as a post-June-1 cut.
Frankly, it may already be too late.
Dallas has two exciting rookies at linebacker in Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox, plus is already seeing good things from Keanu Neal.
That said if there's anyone who can help Jaylon Smith keep his job, it's Dan Quinn.
Everyone is going to say nice things now while he's still part of the 2021 plans. We'll see how the team really feels about Jaylon next year.