Football analytics site Pro Football Focus recently named the best and worst contracts for all 32 NFL teams in 2021. For the Dallas Cowboys, Offensive Tackle Tyron Smith and Linebacker Jaylon Smith made the list with Tyron as the best bargain as Jaylon as having the worst deal currently.
In their commentary, PFF cited the incredible value of Tyron’s contract compared to other top-tier left tackles. Smith has averaged $12.2 million per season on the eight-year deal he signed back in 2014. Currently, premiere tackles like Trent Williams and David Bakhtiari are making nearly doubt that amount at $23 million each year.
At the time it was signed, Tyron’s contract made him one of the most expensive left tackles in football. But that’s the beauty of getting those extra years on a deal; they protect against inflation and usually end up making the contract a steal in the later years.
Another positive in Tyron’s deal is the flexibility Dallas now has in the coming seasons. Assuming they don’t do any additional restructuring, Smith’s cap hit in 2022 will be $17.5 million and with only $12 million left in dead money.
That means the Cowboys can take whatever step seems necessary if Tyron’s injury issues continue or performance declines.
Having turned 30, Smith could have many good season left. If so then Dallas will enjoy his continued work at a bargain. But at least they have options if Tyron starts to lose it after 10 seasons.
As you can imagine, the conversation around Jaylon Smith’s contract is very much the opposite. This Smith is the 7th-highest paid linebacker in all of football at over $12.75 million per season and was one of the lowest-graded starters in the NFL in 2020.
The Cowboys had little choice but to keep Jaylon around this season. His base salary for 2021 became fully guaranteed on March 21st, too early in the free agent process and well before the draft to know whether or not he could be replaced.
Thankfully, if Jaylon’s performance doesn’t improve this year then Dallas can get out from under the contract in 2022 with relative ease. There will be just $6.8 million in dead money left, giving the Cowboys about $5 million cap savings if Smith is released.
There’s no question that Jaylon and many other Dallas defenders were misused and poorly coached under one-year blunder Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator. The switch to Dan Quinn could help Smith to get back to doing what he’s good at and hopefully performing close to his compensation.
Jaylon Smith can be worth that $12 million-per-year again if he gets back to his 2018 form. But if not, at least it won’t be a long-term problem.
I have no argument with PFF’s pick for Dallas’ worst contract. Ezekiel Elliott and DeMarcus Lawrence’s deals may have merited consideration but Jaylon’s is definitely the worst bang for our buck currently.
For the best, and only because of how many games Tyron Smith has missed lately, I might have gone with the rookie contracts of Michael Gallup or CeeDee Lamb as the best value on the entire roster. But as long as Tyron can actually stay healthy this season, he’s certainly one of the best bargains we have.