We're in one of the worst times of the calendar year for football. The time between OTAs and minicamps and when training camp begins on July 25th. As the Dallas Cowboys inch closer to the 2018 season, it's safe to say that Tyron Smith's back situation is on the minds of many in Cowboys Nation.
Tyron Smith, an All-Pro Left Tackle and one of the best in the game, had been the picture of health. He missed only one game in the first five seasons of his career. At one of the most physically demanding positions in the NFL, that is a really great track record.
He's been worth the draft capital and dollars spent as the ninth overall pick 2011. Smith's been the alpha -- the beginning and the lead dog -- as the organization worked to make the team in the image of the Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys of the 90s.
We can't overstate how good Tyron Smith is. He is worth his contract.
Both of those two things that I just wrote are true statements, and yet a question lingers in the back of our minds. Is Tyron Smith's injury troubles, in particular his back, something to be concerned about for the future?
Make no mistake, I believe that you'd rather have Tyron Smith at 13 games a season vs zero games a season, but if the health struggles become more than that, tough questions will have to be asked.
But maybe those questions won't ever have to be asked. Hopefully Tyron returns to his 16 game a season form as he leads the Dallas Cowboys' dominant rushing attack into eternity, but over the last two seasons he missed two games and three games to injury, respectfully, and in 2017 never seemed quite right.
Smith's Contract: What Options do Cowboys Have for the Future?
Before we get any further, let me be clear that this isn't a "Dallas Cowboys should cut Tyron Smith article." It's just an evaluation for if it becomes a necessity.
If Tyron continues to play more than 75% of games, he's worth every penny of his contract. Yes, you'd prefer to have him for 16, but like I stated earlier, 13 games of Tyron is better than no Tyron.
Notes On Tyron Smith's Contract
First, we should note that Tyron Smith took a really cheap guaranteed amount compared to his contemporaries. Of the total value of his $97-million contract, only $22 million of it was guaranteed. New York Giants Left Tackle Nate Solder, who just signed his deal this offseason, signed a contract shorter in length and got $34 million guaranteed. His $15 million a year average annual salary is about $3 million more than Tyron.
Tyron is a discount at his current price.
Second, Tyron's deal runs out after the 2023 season, meaning he has six-years remaining on his contract that will take him through his age 33 season. If the Dallas Cowboys don't restructure his contract anymore, then his guaranteed money will run out after 2021. So, if the Dallas Cowboys felt they needed to move on from him after the '21 season, they would have zero penalties against their cap moving forward in 2021 and beyond.
** An aside. It feels really weird to be talking about the year 2020 and beyond. Seems like only yesterday we turned the clock on the 90s, but I digress.
His contract counts almost 10% of the Dallas Cowboys cap for the 2018 season, but that percentage hold will decrease as the cap continues to grow, even as his base salary increases.
According to OverTheCap.com, over the next two years, it would make little sense to make Tyron Smith a pre-June 1st cut. In 2018 and 2019, you'd actually have more dead money on the cap than you would cap savings. Not until the 2020 season would you be able to cut Tyron and have a greater savings on the cap than dead money hold.
As a post-June 1st cut however, starting in 2019, you can save $10 million on the cap while having a $5-million dead money hit. In 2020, the dead money decreases to $3 million while you still save $10 million on the cap. In 2021, the dead money is a little more than $1 million, with a little more than $10 million in cap savings.
Again, not to be redundant, I'm not advocating a release of Tyron, just laying out the information for the sake of the overall team, should it come to that. Every game we should be thankful for the contract that Tyron Smith signed for the Dallas Cowboys. It really is a cap friendly deal beyond 2018.
I'd say it's unlikely that we see the Dallas Cowboys restructure his contract in the future, because they have some outs if he begins to miss more games than he has the last two seasons, but if there is a return to health and they decide they need more cap room, then a restructure remains an option.
Restructuring Tyron Smith's Contract isn't something that anyone would recommend at the moment, but in the football world, things can change. If you need another $7 million or so on the cap, flipping the switch and restructuring Tyron could help get more talent under the cap.
It's possible that DeMarcus Lawrence and Dak Prescott sign long-term contracts in the 2019 season and, though the Dallas Cowboys don't need the money to get them under the cap, if they wanted to go free agent shopping, a Tyron restructure would help.
We know this front office loves to pay today's bills with tomorrow's money and so a restructure could be in his plans.
Again, a restructure at this juncture wouldn't be recommended, but if Dallas sees an opportunity to get that final piece under contract, then it remains a possibility.
Offensive lineman can typically play at high levels into their mid-30s, so getting value out of Tyron Smith through the end of his contract isn't a stretch of the imagination.
Remember, Philadelphia Eagles' Left Tackle Jason Peters made the Pro Bowl every year from age 31-35 and was a First-Team All-Pro selection at age 31.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
When Tyron Smith is on the field, he's one of the best in the game. He's a dominant pass blocker, and his physicality and athleticism in the run game have helped the Dallas Cowboys have two different running backs lead the league in rushing yards over the last four seasons.
All reports are that Tyron feels the best he has in years. That's encouraging news and we should be optimistic about his play in 2018.
** All salary and salary cap figures taken from OverTheCap.com.
Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report
The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.
Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
- DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
- DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
- DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
- DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
- G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
- G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
- DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
- LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable
The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.
Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.
The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.
Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.
- LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT
It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.
The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.
Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.
So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.
4 Best Candidates for Cowboys’ Next Offensive Coordinator
The big word around the Dallas Cowboys lately is about Jason Garrett and the future of the head coaching job. Some have speculated that either Quarterback Dak Prescott or Jason Garrett will get axed, and the other will stay.
Owner Jerry Jones was quoted on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas about his young quarterback, putting to bed at least half of the conflict.
"Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He’s young and he’s going to get extended."
This shut the door on the idea of Prescott being replaced.
As far as Jason Garrett? Jerry Jones has been less than committed.
"I’m not in the business of backing anybody; the head coach, or offensive coordinator, I just don’t back them publicly." Jerry Jones said.
So it seems that Jason Garrett’s future is up in the air.
But what about offensive coordinator Scott Linehan? What’s held the Cowboys back this year has been the offense, and a lot of it can be contributed to their predictable play calling and inability to adapt to today’s game and its current players.
Whether or not Jason Garrett retains his job, Scott Linehan’s job doesn’t seem near as secure. His scheme doesn’t really mesh with Dak Prescott and how the offense could look. There’s only so many times you can run a three tight end set and not get furious.
Cowboys fans may want Garrett gone but they might have to settle for a new offensive coordinator instead.
The good news is that there are many options out there. Options that not only could work well with Dak Prescott, but could bring the Cowboys offense into the 2010s.
Jerry Jones once said how the Cowboys offense was like the LA Rams. If they are able to sign their Co-Offensive Coordinator, then they could be.
When Matt LaFleur left to become the Tennessee Titans OC, the job became a shared job between Waldron and Aaron Kromer. I wonder if Waldron would rather have the job all to himself?
What makes Waldron so appealing is he is also the Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator. Those are two areas where the Rams excel and where the Cowboys need help.
Teams are going to start copying the offensive juggernauts of the NFL and the Rams are definitely one of them. The Cowboys should do themselves a favor and get out in front before other teams beat them to it.
Cam Newton is having one of his best seasons. Not only is he an MVP candidate but he’s set to have career highs in completion percentage and QBR, as well as a career low in interceptions. Cam Newton is a very talented quarterback but some of this has to be attributed to his new Quarterback Coach, Scott Turner.
The son of Norv Turner, Scott has seemingly helped mold Cam into a more accurate passer without compromising who Cam Newton is as an athletic quarterback. That has Dak Prescott written all over it.
He's got NFL lineage and a new, scary Cam Newton to add to his resume. He may not have as impressive a track record as others on here but he looks like he could be a chip off the old block and get the Cowboys where they need to be going.
A popular head coach candidate, Lincoln Riley has shown his creativity and offensive innovation during his short time as Oklahoma’s head coach. It’s uncertain if he’ll get any real offers to be a head coach, but as an OC, he would be a serious grab.
Everyone has seen the work he’s done with Baker Mayfield and now Kyler Murray. How he’s able to incorporate different formations to open up the pass game and have the run game seem unstoppable. Just imagine what he could do with the weapons he would have at his disposal in Dallas.
It's likely that Lincoln Riley is a hot commodity for a head coach position, especially in Cleveland where he could reunite with Baker Mayfield. That shouldn’t stop the Cowboys from trying to lure him to Dallas, though. Lincoln Riley could be the real missing piece that Dallas has been looking for.
Another product of Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy is the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. The former running backs coach has the experience under Andy Reid on not only how to run an offense but to use your weapons at your disposal to the fullest.
Maybe I’m over-hyping this man but when you see the work he helped put in with Pat Mahomes and how he uses those weapons around him, it makes me imagine what he can do for the Cowboy offense.
The team has no shortage of weapons and could benefit greatly from a guy like this.
If the Chiefs make it past their first playoff game, Bieniemy could become a more attractive name when it comes time for new head coaches. However, if Jerry Jones comes calling and the right offer is met, who’s to say?
If Kris Richard can be lured from Seattle to fix the Cowboys defense, Eric Bieniemy can be lured from Kansas City to fix the Cowboys offense.
Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta
The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.
As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.
The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.
It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.
Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.
Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.
If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.
The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.
In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.
Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.
It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.
The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.
Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.
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